How to Treat a Tickle in Your Nose

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on December 1, 2017Written by Corinne O’Keefe Osborn

Overview

A tickle in the nose can be very annoying. Typically, that tickling feeling in your nose only lasts for a few seconds, and then you sneeze. Sometimes, though, sneezing doesn’t relieve the problem. If you have a tickle in your nose that isn’t going away, there could be several possible causes, including viruses, allergies, and nasal polyps.

What’s causing your nose tickle?

Viruses

The tickle in your nose may be caused by a virus like the common cold. Although colds are most common in the winter and spring, you can get them any time of year. In fact, most adults get two or three colds every year, and children have even more.

Your nose tickle may be your body’s way of telling you that you’re about to get a cold. When the germs that cause colds first infect your nose and sinuses, your nose tries to flush them out with mucus. Sneezing is another way that your body expels germs, which may explain the nose tickle. If you’re having trouble getting out that sneeze, these tips may help.

Allergies

Allergies occur when your body has an immune response to something in your environment. When you’re allergic to something, your body mistakes it for a foreign invader, like a flu virus. This can cause cold-like symptoms. Many people have allergies to both indoor and outdoor substances, such as pet dander, pollen, and dust mites.

Allergies can be seasonal or last all year long. They can cause an irritating inflammation in your nose that may give you a tickly, itchy feeling.

Environmental irritants

There are things in the air that can be very irritating to the nasal passages (the spaces in your nose that fill with air). People who are bothered by irritants have what doctors call nonallergic rhinitis. The symptoms are similar to seasonal allergies, but your body doesn’t have an immune reaction. You may experience runny nose or other nasal irritation. Common irritants include fragrances, smoke, and cleaning products.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis can be either acute (lasting a short time) or chronic (lasting a long time). If you’ve felt a tickling sensation in your nose for more than a few weeks along with other symptoms, you could have chronic sinusitis.

Chronic sinusitis is a common condition that occurs when the passages become inflamed and swollen. It lasts at least 12 weeks and includes some of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty breathing through your nose
  • fatigue
  • pain and tenderness around your eyes

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps often occur in people with chronic sinusitis. They’re small, soft, noncancerous growths that hang down from the lining of your nasal passages. They can also be caused by asthma, allergies, drug sensitivity, or some immune disorders. Larger growths may be irritating and lead to breathing problems and a lost sense of smell.

Migraine

Many people don’t know that headache is not the only symptom of migraines. Migraine attacks can include a variety of different symptoms, such as:

  • facial numbness and tingling
  • aura (flashes of light)
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • blurry vision

It’s possible to experience a migraine attack with no head pain at all. Migraines also come in stages, so a tingling nose could indicate that a migraine attack is on its way.

CPAP machine

If you use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for sleep apnea, it could be causing your nose to itch. Nose itchiness is one of the most common complaints of new CPAP users. People say it feels like spiders or feathers in the nose.

If the itchiness is preventing you from wearing your mask, talk to your doctor. You can also try increasing the humidity or using mask liners.

Dry nose

When your nasal passages get dried out it can be uncomfortable, irritating, and painful. Dry nose is often caused by blowing your nose too much. Some medications for allergies and colds can also dry out your nose. Dry nose is common during the winter when the heat is turned on. There are several home treatments for dry nose.

Nasal tumors

Nasal and paranasal tumors are growths that form in and around your nasal passages. These tumors can be either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign). Cancer of the nasal passages is rare and often has no symptoms. Possible symptoms include loss of smell, congestion, sores inside the nose, and frequent sinus infections.

How to treat a nose tickle at home

There are several things you can do to treat your nose tickle at home:

Avoid triggers. If you’re having a reaction to an allergen (pet dander, pollen, dust) or an irritant (smoke, perfume, chemicals), try to stay away.

Take over-the-counter (OTC) allergy drugs. OTC allergy medications can help with seasonal and indoor allergies. There are pills and nasal sprays available.

Take cold medicine. If your doctor says it’s safe, you can take an OTC cold remedy or decongestant.

Blow your nose less. Blowing your nose repeatedly can cause damage, dryness, and irritation.

Hands off. Don’t pick your nose or stick a tissue or Q-tip up there to try and remove debris. Your nose has ways of clearing debris on its own.

Use a humidifier. A humidifier can add moisture to dry winter air. It may be particularly useful at night.

Try capsaicin nasal spray. Capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, can overstimulate your nose all at once, making irritation less likely.

Try a neti pot. A neti pot flushes a salt water solution through your nasal passages. It’s a good way to clear out excess mucus and irritants and may feel refreshing

Get a lot of rest. If you have a cold or a flu, then there’s not much you can do except wait it out and get as much rest as possible.

Drink lots of water. Drinking fluids like water and tea while you’re sick keeps you hydrated while your body is fighting off an infection or virus.

Try dietary supplements. Researchers have looked into the possible benefits of honey, butterbur, capsaicin, astragalus, grapeseed extract, and omega-3 fatty acids for nasal issues.

When to see your doctor

There are many possible causes for a tickling sensation in your nose. Most can be resolved with home remedies and the passage of time. A tickle in the nose is rarely a sign of a serious problem, but you should talk to your doctor if your symptoms don’t improve.

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