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Quick Dose: Why Does the Cold Weather Make My Nose Run?

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Chilly air means sniffly noses. When we breathe in, our noses warm the air and add moisture to it as it travels down into our lungs. Cold, dry air irritates your nasal lining, and as a result, your nasal glands produce excess mucus to keep the lining moist. That can cause those big, heavy drops that drip from your nostrils. Wearing a scarf in cold weather can help, because the air warms before it hits your nose.

A runny nose is one of the most typical symptoms of the common cold. We are more likely to pick up a cold in the winter because we spend more time inside, and germs are able to survive longer in dry air. We’re exposed to millions of germs every day that linger on doorknobs, keyboards and phones.

Frequent handwashing, cleaning surfaces at home and work, sneezing or coughing into your elbow, and staying home when you’re sick are key to avoid picking up — and spreading — germs.

If a runny nose is bothersome, ask your physician about some over-the-counter remedies.

- Deborah S. Clements, MD, Northwestern Medical Group, Family Medicine

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