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Why does my nose run when it’s cold or windy outside?


Updated June 30, 2014

Question: Why does my nose run when it’s cold or windy outside?
Answer: It could be allergies caused by pollen or mold in the air, but when you only have a runny nose when outdoors, it is most likely because of vasomotor rhinitis, which is a type of nonallergic rhinitis caused by changes in temperature, humidity and exposure to strong odors and perfumes. Usually, a person with vasomotor rhinitis will have production of clear nasal discharge that may drain out of the front of the nose, down the back of the throat or result in nasal congestion.

Vasomotor rhinitis will not usually get better with antihistamines, but may get better by using nasal steroid or nasal antihistamine sprays. The best medication for the treatment of vasomotor rhinitis, especially when the symptoms are a nose that “runs like a faucet," is ipratropium bromide nasal spray (Nasal Atrovent). This nasal spray works by drying up the mucous-producing cells in the nose, and can be used “as needed," since the spray will start working within an hour. Ipratropium nasal spray is available by prescription only -- check with your doctor to see if this medication is right for you.

Learn about symptoms of a runny nose when you eat spicy foods.


Diagnosis and Management of Rhinitis: Joint Task Force on Practice Parameters in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998;81:463-518.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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