Sores in Nose: 12 Common Causes & What to Do

Medical review: Dr. Gonzalo Ramirez
General Practitioner and Psychologist
January 2023

Sores in the nose can appear for many reasons, like allergies, rhinitis, or frequent and prolonged used of nasal sprays. These sores can cause scant nasal bleeding and dryness within the nostrils. Scabs often appear due to mild conditions that are not serious and relatively easy to treat. 

If sores in the nose cause pain or excessive bleeding, however, they may be a sign of a more serious condition, like an infection, sinusitis or cancer. 

Therefore, if you notice sores in the nose that do not improve with time, or if they occur frequently, you should see a doctor for assessment and treatment, which will depend on the underlying cause of the sores. 

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Common causes

Sores in the nose can appear for the following reasons: 

1. Dry environments

Changes to climate, especially during winter when the air is dryer, can lead to the formation of sores within the nose. You may also notice that the skin on your face and lips is dry and peeling.

What to do: It is important to ensure adequate levels of humidity in your home. You can do this by using a humidifier. You should also drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure hydration. 

2. Prolonged use of nasal sprays

Using nasal decongestant sprays for prolonged periods can dry out the nasal airways and lead to the formation of sores. Overuse may also have a rebound effect, in which the body produces even more nasal secretions. This may increase inflammation in the nasal tissue. 

What to do: You should ideally only use medicated nasal sprays for up to 5 days. You can swap these for natural, hypertonic saline solutions, which are hypertonic and often made with sea water. 

3. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an inflammation in the nasal cavities that causes symptoms like headaches, runny nose and facial pain. The excessively runny nose can irritate the nasal airways and cause scabs along the inside of the nostrils. 

What to do: You should be assessed by a doctor to determine the best treatment approach. The doctor may recommend antibiotics, expectorant and/or anti-inflammatory medication. In some cases, like with chronic sinusitis, the doctor may also prescribe decongestants. Check out other home remedies for sinusitis that you can use to complement your medical treatment. 

4. Allergies

Allergies are one the most common causes of inflammation within the nasal airways. They can be triggered following contact with animal fur, dust or pollen, for example, and can make the nasal tissue lining more fragile and susceptible to the formation of sores. Blowing your nose constantly can also irritate the skin around and within the nose, which can lead to dry skin and scabs. 

What to do: You should identify the underlying trigger causing the allergy so that it can be avoided. Anti-histamines, as prescribed by a doctor, can help to relieve symptoms, as well as adequate fluid intake. Performing vapor inhalations and staying in humid environments can also help to keep the nose skin hydrated, preventing further sores from appearing. 

5. Irritating chemicals

Some chemicals, like abrasive cleaning products, industrial chemicals or cigarette smoke, can also irritate the nose and cause sores. In most cases, contact with chemicals can also respiratory symptoms, like coughing and difficulty breathing. 

What to do: In this case, it is important to avoid contact with irritating substances and to keep the nose skin as hydrated as possible. If you are having difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention immediately to initiate treatment. 

6. Pimples

Sores in the nose can also appear due to the emergence of pimples. Pimples form due to inflammation and infection of a hair follicle, which can cause pain and a pus discharge.

What to do: Avoiding popping or squeezing the pimple, as this can lead to infection and cause further sores. To get rid of a pimple, you should keep the area clean and hydrated. You can use products as recommended by a dermatologist, like pimple cream or drying gel. 

7. Injuries

Mild injuries, like rubbing, scratching or hitting the nose can damage the delicate skin within the nostril. This can lead to bleeding and the formation of scabs. Small children tend to insert small objects into their nose, which may also result in bleeding.

What to do: It is important to treat the injury and wounds to prevent injection. Sores should be kept clean with water and a mild soap, and you should avoid picking at scabs to promote adequate healing. 

8. Drug use

Inhaling drugs like cocaine or poppers can cause bleeding and serious injury to the internal nose. These drugs can dry out the mucosa, which can lead to sores that are difficult to heal. 

What to do: Drug use should be avoided and the internal nasal skin should be kept hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier. 

9. HIV infection

HIV infections can cause sinusitis and rhinitis, which are illnesses associated with swelling within the nasal airways. HIV can also cause painful scabs in side the nose that bleed and take a long time to heal. Some common wounds associated with HIV are nasal septal abscesses, herpes ulcers and Kaposi sarcomas. 

Learn more about the initial symptoms of HIV infections and how they are treated. 

What to do: Is it important for HIV infection treatment to be monitored by a doctor. Treatment is aimed in keeping the virus in regression, inhibiting multiplication of the virus, and managing symptoms. The doctor may prescribe a cocktail of antivirals to achieve these outcomes. 

10. Herpes

The Herpes simplex virus can lead to the appearance of sores on the inside and outside of the nose. Herpes sores usually look like small fluid-filled blisters, that release a clear liquid when ruptured. When it spreads, the liquid can transmit the virus to other parts of the body, resulting in herpes blisters in other parts of the body.

What to do: You should avoid rupturing and even touching these blisters. You can see a doctor for treatment, which usually involves the use of oral or topical antivirals. 

11. Non-bullous impetigo

Non-bullous impetigo is an infection caused by bacteria like Streptococcus pyogenes ou Staphylococcus aureus.  This infection leads to small sores on the skin that contain pus and crust over to a yellow or golden color. These scabs can appear on the nose and around the lips. Non-bullous impetigo is most common in children and patients with an compromised immune system. 

What to do: If you notice signs of non-bullous impetigo, you should see a dermatologist for assessment to start appropriate treatment. The doctor may prescribe topical antibiotics. 

12. Cancer

Sores in the nasal cavity that are persistent, do not heal and do not respond to treatment may be a sign of cancer. Malignant nasal sores will usually also bleed and cause a runny nose, facial tingling or pressure within the ears.

Learn more about general signs and symptoms of cancer that can emerge with many types. 

What to do: It is important for a family doctor to assess your symptoms and order testing to confirm a diagnosis. If cancer is present, treatment will depend on the characteristics of the cancer cells, the location it was found and the age of the patient. Treatment may include the use of medications and/or chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery. 

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Edited by Tua Saude editing team in January 2023. Medical review completed by Dr. Gonzalo Ramirez - General Practitioner and Psychologist in January 2023.

References

  • MEDSCAPE. Impetigo. Available on: <https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/965254-overview?src=refgatesrc1>. Access in 15 Sep 2022
  • BASCONES-MARTÍNEZ, A. , POUSA-CASTRO X.. Herpesvirus. AVANCES EN ODONTOESTOMATOLOGÍA. Vol.27. 1.ed; 11-24, 2011
Show more references
  • HERNÁNDEZ, Scarlette et al. Cáncer de Senos Paranasales y sus Manifestaciones Orales: Reporte de Dos Casos Clínicos. Int. J. Odontostomat.. Vol.7. 1.ed; 53-57, 2013
  • RAMPI, Andrea et al. Cocaine-Induced Midline Destructive Lesions: A Real Challenge in Oral Rehabilitation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Vol.18. 1-10, 2021
Medical review:
Dr. Gonzalo Ramirez
General Practitioner and Psychologist
Dr. Ramirez possesses a medical degree from the Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP). He also specializes in clinical psychology.