Dry Nose

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Introduction

What is dry nose?

Dryness of the nose is a common symptom of certain adverse environmental conditions and can also be a side effect of medications. The nose requires a certain level of humidity to work properly, and extremely hot or dry conditions can result in dry nose. Hot, dry climates, low humidity, and air conditioning can all lead to dryness in the nose.

Dry nose is a common effect of certain medications, such as some antihistamines and decongestants. Many individuals commonly experience dry nose from the overuse of medications like antihistamines and nasal sprays.

Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease characterized by dry eyes and mouth, may also result in dry nose. The disease affects the mucous membranes and moisture-secreting glands of the entire body, including the nose. Healthy tear flow drains via the nasal passages. Inadequate tearing caused by Sjogren’s syndrome reduces this source of nasal moisture.

Dry nose is rarely a sign of a serious medical condition.

Dry nose alone rarely causes serious consequences. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if dry nose occurs with symptoms of a serious condition such as difficulty breathing or a high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

Seek prompt medical care if your dry nose is persistent or causes you concern.

Symptoms

What other symptoms might occur with dry nose?

Dry nose may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Conditions that frequently affect the nose may also involve other body systems.

Nasal symptoms that may occur along with dry nose

Dry nose may accompany other symptoms affecting the nose including:

  • Bleeding
  • Change or alteration in smell
  • Nasal congestion
  • Redness, warmth or swelling

Other symptoms that may occur along with dry nose

Dry nose may accompany symptoms related to other body systems. Such symptoms may include:

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, dry nose may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have dry nose along with other serious symptoms including:

Causes

What causes dry nose?

Many medications produce side effects including dry nose. Common drugs that result in dry nose are antibiotics, antihistamines and decongestants. Overuse or abuse of drugs used to relieve congestion, especially nasal sprays, will dry the nose.

Environmental conditions with low humidity also result in dry nose. Extreme heat or arid conditions do not provide adequate relative humidity for the nasal passages, and they become dry. Dryness in the nasal passages is unhealthy for the entire respiratory system, as the nose is the main humidifier of inhaled air that travels to the lungs. The mucous membranes that line the respiratory system require humidity to work properly, as does saliva in its role as a mouth cleanser.

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the mucus and moisture-producing glands of the body. It is characterized by dry eyes and mouth, but individuals who have this syndrome may also experience dry nose.

Common causes of dry nose

Environmental conditions that lack humidity commonly cause dry nose and include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Desert climate
  • Indoor heating (forced air or radiant delivery)
  • Sauna without steam

Other causes of dry nose

Dry nose can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Medications, such as decongestants, antihistamines and anticholinergics
  • Misuse of nasal sprays
  • Sjogren’s syndrome

Serious or life-threatening causes of dry nose

In some cases, dry nose may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These conditions include severe infections of the respiratory system.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of dry nose

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your dry nose including:

  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Do you use nasal sprays?
  • When did you first notice your nose was dry?
  • When does your nose feel dry?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • Have you been in a different climate recently?
  • Do you have a humidifier in your home?

What are the potential complications of dry nose?

Because dry nose can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2018 Dec 28
  1. NINDS Sjögren’s syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sjogrens/sjogrens.htm.
  2. Allergic rhinitis. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/allergic-rhinitis.html.
  3. Chandra RK, Patadia MO, Raviv J. Diagnosis of nasal airway obstruction. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 2009; 42:207.
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