Dry Nose: 10 Common Causes (& What to Do)

A dry nose can be caused by being in very dry environments, using a heater, allergic rhinitis, flu and colds, dehydration or excessive use of nasal decongestants.

Depending on the underlying cause, a dry nose may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as an itchy nose, dry throat, coughing, sneezing, excessive tearing, headache, nosebleed, fever or general malaise.

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It is important to consult an otorhinolaryngologist or family doctor if you notice a dry nose, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms. The doctor will diagnose the underlying cause to initiate the most appropriate treatment.

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What causes a dry nose?

The main causes of a dry nose are:

1. Dry air and air conditioning

A dry nose can occur due to dry air with low humidity. This can make the nasal mucosa drier and more irritated, which is more common during winter or in areas with low air humidity.

A dry nose from dry air and low humidity can also lead to nose bleeds.

Indoor cooling or heating systems can also make the air drier and dry out of the mucous membranes in the nose and throat.

What to do: Reduce nose dryness and irritation by drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier to moisten the air.

2. Cold and flu

A cold or flu can also cause a dry nose. These infections are caused by viruses, such as influenza or Rhinovirus, which can enter through the nose and cause inflammation and irritation in the nasal mucosa.

In addition to the feeling of a dry nose, the flu or cold can also cause other symptoms, such as dry throat, cough, fever, sneezing, headache and body ache. Learn more about the differences between a cold and flu and how these present.

What to do: You should rest and keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Your doctor may recommend medications to relieve symptoms, such as analgesics, anti-inflammatories or antihistamines. You can also use home remedies for a cold or flu to complement your prescribed treatment.

4. Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a common cause of a dry nose, as it causes inflammation and irritation of the nasal mucosa.

Other symptoms are nose itchiness, itchy eyes, watery eyes and constant sneezing.

Allergic rhinitis is caused by contact with allergenic substances, such as dust, pollen, animal dander or some plants. It may be more frequent during the spring or autumn.

What to do: Treatment for allergic rhinitis should be oriented by an allergist or otorhinolaryngologist, who may prescribe anti-allergy medications. In addition, you should avoid contact with the trigger. Learn more about the medications for allergic rhinitis that your doctor may prescribe.

5. Exposure to irritants

A dry nose can arise due to exposure to irritating substances, like pollution, for example, which can irritate the nasal mucosa.

Other symptoms that may occur include an itchy nose or throat, or a sore throat.

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What to do: Exposure to substances that cause nose irritation should be avoided. If this is not possible, you can use saline drops in the nostrils to keep the mucosa hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day.

6. Smoking 

Smoking can cause irritation and inflammation in the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat and nostrils, resulting in a dry nose, dry throat and mouth.

Furthermore, smoking can lead to the development of lung cancer or cancer inside the nose or nasal cavity.

What to do: You are encouraged to stop smoking if it is causing a dry nose. Cessation will also help to prevent other, more serious health problems. In addition, you should consult your family, who can recommend measures to stop smoking or medications such as bupropion or varenicline.

7. Allergies

Allergies occur due to the release of histamine in the body. This chemical is responsible for allergy symptoms when you come in contact with an irritating substance, such as dust, pollen or animal hair.

Allergies can cause a dry nose, due to irritation or inflammation of the nasal mucosa, as well as other symptoms such as a dry, scratchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes or sneezing.

What to do: Treatment should be be oriented by an allergist who may prescribe medications to relieve symptoms. You should also avoid contact with the allergy symptoms.

8. Excessive use of decongestants

A dry nose may occur due to excessive use of nasal decongestants, such as naphazoline or pseudoephedrine, for example.

This is because these medicines, in the form of solutions or nasal spray, cause a narrowing of the blood vessels in the nasal mucosa to reduce the phlegm. However, when used in excess, they lead to nose dryness.

Additionally, excessive or prolonged use of nasal decongestants can cause a rebound effect, which is an increase in nasal congestion when the body notices that blood flow in the nose has decreased. This can ultimately nasal congestion worse.

What to do: Nasal decongestants should only be used as guided by a doctor for the shortest possible time, generally 3 to 7 days.

9. Dehydration

Dehydration is another cause of dry nose. It can also cause dryness in the mouth, throat or skin.

Other symptoms of dehydration include intense thirst, muscle pain or cramps, severe headache or tiredness.

Dehydration can be caused by severe diarrhea or vomiting, not drinking enough water, or drinking too much alcohol.

What to do: You should drink at least 2 liters of water a day in small sips to keep your body hydrated. You should avoid drinking alcohol. For people who have difficulty drinking water, a great option is to squeeze half a lemon into the water to enhance its flavor. Check-out other infused water recipes that you can prepare to increase your fluid intake.

In cases of severe dehydration, you should proceed immediately to the hospital for treatment, which generally involves treatment with IV fluids.

10. Sjögren's Syndrome

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that typically causes dry mouth, eyes and throat, but can also affect the nasal mucosa and result in a dry nose.

This syndrome can be caused by changes in immunity or other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, vasculitis, or chronic hepatitis.

What to do: Treatment should be guided by a rheumatologist, who may prescribe medication, such as corticosteroids or immunosuppressants to manage the disease and relieve symptoms.