How to Stop a Runny Nose at Home

Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, MD on October 26, 2017Written by Adrian White

Getting a runny nose

Getting a runny nose happens to all of us, a condition that we can easily deal with at home.

There are a few reasons why you might get a runny nose. The most common is a viral infection of the sinuses — typically the common cold.

In other cases, a runny nose may be due to allergies, hay fever, or other causes.

Stopping a runny nose with home remedies

If you prefer using natural remedies, there are plenty of options that can help. Explore the following home treatments to see if any work for you and your runny nose.

1. Drink plenty of fluids

Drinking fluids and staying hydrated when dealing with a runny nose can be helpful if you also have symptoms of nasal congestion.

This ensures that mucus in your sinuses thins out to a runny consistency and is easy for you to expel. Otherwise, it may be thick and sticky, which congests the nose even further.

Avoid beverages that dehydrate rather than hydrate. This includes drinks like coffee and alcoholic beverages.

2. Hot teas

On the other hand, hot beverages like tea may sometimes be more helpful than cold ones. This is because of their heat and steam, which help open and decongest airways.

Certain herbal teas may contain herbs that are mild decongestants. Look for teas that contain anti-inflammatory and antihistamine herbs, such as chamomile, ginger, mint, or nettle.

Make a cup of hot herbal tea (preferably non-caffeinated) and inhale the steam before drinking. Sore throats often accompany runny noses — drinking hot herbal tea can help soothe a sore throat, too.

3. Facial steam

Inhaling hot steam has been shown to help treat a runny nose. A 2015 study of people with the common cold proved that using steam inhalation was quite effective. It reduced illness recovery time by about one week compared to no steam inhalation at all.

In addition to inhaling steam from a hot cup of tea, try a facial steam. Here’s how:

  1. Heat clean water in a clean pot on your stove. Heat it just enough so that steam is created —DON’T let it get to a boil.
  2. Place your face above the steam for 20–30 minutes at a time. Take deep breaths through your nose. Take breaks if your face gets a too hot.
  3. Blow your nose afterward to get rid of mucus.

If desired, add a few drops of decongestant essential oils to your facial steam water. About two drops per ounce of water is sufficient.

Eucalyptus, peppermint, pine, rosemary, sage, spearmint, tea tree (melaleuca), and thyme oils are great options. Compounds in these plants (like menthol and thymol) are also found in many over-the-counter decongestants.

If you don’t have these essential oils, use these herbs in dried form instead. Make your facial steam into an herbal tea and inhale the vapors — you’ll get the same benefits.

4. Hot shower

Need some quick relief? Try a hot shower. Just like a hot tea or facial steam, a shower’s spray can help alleviate a runny and stuffy nose.

Place your face and sinuses directly in the steam and spray of the shower for best results.

5. Neti pot

Using a neti pot for nasal irrigation (also called nasal lavage) is a common approach to sinus issues. This includes runny nose problems and discomfort.

Neti pots are small teapot-like containers with a spout. You add a warm saline or saltwater solution to the pot. You then use the pot to pour the solution through one nostril and out the other. This rinses out your sinuses quite thoroughly.

Purchase a neti pot kit at your local pharmacy or store. Make sure to follow directions for your neti pot exactly. Improper use of neti pots can, though rarely, make runny noses worse or cause sinus infections.

Make sure to use sterile and distilled water rather than tap water.

Add decongestant essential oils like the ones mentioned earlier to your saline solution for added benefits, if desired (only add two to three drops per pot).

6. Eating spicy foods

Spicy foods can make a runny nose worse. However, if you’re also having symptoms of nasal congestion, eating spicy foods can possibly help.

If you can tolerate quite a bit of heat in your food, give it a try. If you’re unaccustomed to spiciness, try a little bit of spicy seasonings at first to see if it helps.

Hot spices like cayenne pepper, ghost pepper, habanero, wasabi, horseradish, or ginger are great options. These spices, while also creating a feeling of heat when eaten, dilate passageways in the body and can relieve sinus issues.

7. Capsaicin

Capsaicin is the chemical that makes chili peppers spicy. It’s been used to treat nerve pain and psoriasis, but if you apply it on your nose, it can help with a runny nose caused by congestion.

Several studies have found that capsaicin is more effective at treating runny noses than the over-the-counter medication budesonide.

The bottom line

There are many home remedies you can try to get relief from a runny nose without using medication.

None of these remedies are designed to actually cure or completely get rid of the underlying causes of runny noses — namely colds, viral infections, or allergies.

These approaches will only give you relief. Make sure to seek more direct treatment if you’re experiencing colds, viruses, and allergies.

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