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Runny Noses and Problem Eyes

Published on May 21, 2019

Runny Noses and Problem Eyes

What causes a runny nose?

A runny nose is sometimes known as “rhinorrhoea” or “rhinitis.” It’s the excess drainage produced by the nose and surrounding blood vessels and can be thin and clear mucus or thick mucus. This excess mucus isn’t just there to annoy you, but traps bacteria and debris from entering your lungs.

What’s the difference between the common cold and the flu?

The common cold is due to a virus infecting the nose and throat. There are more than 100 different viruses that can cause the common cold. The flu is due to a virus that attacks the nose, throat and lungs and is more serious than the common cold. A runny nose is a very typical symptom of both cold and flu because the body is making extra mucous to try to protect itself.

Runny noses from hayfever

You may experience a runny nose if you are allergic to certain substances and are exposed by touching, inhaling or ingesting them.  Typical substances which trigger allergies are dust mites, pollen, animal fur, fungal spores, grass and mould. Hayfever, also called allergic rhinitis, is a common type of allergic reaction. Hayfever usually occurs in spring and on windy days due to the excess pollen in the air.

What is sinusitis?

When the passages of the nose, also known as sinuses, become swollen and inflamed they can result in Sinusitis. The nasal passages may become narrowed which can cause difficulties with breathing and a build-up of mucus. The mucus can drain out of the nose or it may be felt in the back of your throat as a post-nasal drip. This type of runny nose usually is associated with thick mucus which can also have a yellow or green hue to it. Headaches are often experienced with Sinusitis also.

Other causes of a runny nose

  • Food allergies – common culprits are wheat, shellfish, peanuts, milk and soy
  • Cluster headache
  • Colder temperatures and sudden temperature changes
  • Dry air
  • Hormonal changes
  • Medications
  • Nasal polyps
  • Other environmental irritants such as perfume and tobacco smoke

How do I treat a runny nose?

If your runny nose is allergy related, an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Telfast may help to ease the symptoms. Other simple strategies for relief can include sniffing and swallowing, or gently blowing your nose.

For a postnasal drip, where excess mucus has accumulated in the back of the throat, it may be useful to drink plenty of water, and use a humidifier. It also helps to avoid common irritants such as tobacco smoke and sudden temperature changes.

If your runny nose is due to a cold or flu, rest and fluid are key. For advice on treatment options for a runny nose please consult your healthcare professional.

SymptomHayfeverCommon Cold
Nasal DischargeUsually clear, as long as the body remains free of infectionCloudy initially clear, but can become thick and cloudy within days
SneezingFrequent attacksLess frequent, convulsive attacks
Nasal ItchingTypical symptomNot normally present
Itchy, sore or red eyesUsually presentNot normally present
DurationVaries. Symptoms continue for as long as exposed to the allergen, if left untreatedUsually symptoms last for 4-7 days, depending on severity
OnsetSudden onset upon exposure to the allergenUsually a gradual onset of symptoms
FrequencyFrequency is dependent on exposure to the allergen. Could be seasonal or year roundCan occur year round, but usually more sign of common colds during the cooler months

Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

What’s causing my red, swollen and itchy eyes?

Exposure to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander and mould can trigger a condition known as allergic conjunctivitis in some people, which causes various eye symptoms including:

  • Redness in both eyes
  • Itching and burning of the eyes and surrounding tissues
  • Watery discharge often accompanied by short‐term discomfort with bright sunlight
  • Swollen eyelids

The best way to prevent an episode of allergic conjunctivitis from occurring is to avoid the substances that trigger your allergies.

If you are affected, there are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms. These include:

  • Removing your contact lenses if you wear them.
  • Using ‘artificial tears’, a type of eye drop that is available over‐the‐counter. Do not use the same bottle of drops in the other eye if it isn’t affected.
  • Try placing cold compresses over your eyes.
  • Practise good hygiene by washing your hands often with soap and water and avoid touching or rubbing the affected eye area.
  • Washing pillowcases, linen and towels in detergent and hot water will help to reduce allergens as well.
  • Avoid wearing eye makeup wherever possible, and never share eye makeup with anyone.

While itchiness does suggest an allergic cause, similar symptoms may occur with other conditions like viral or bacterial conjunctivitis or even the presence of a foreign body in the eye, so it is always recommended that you consult your GP or eye specialist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

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CHCANZ.CFEX.19.04.0434b May 2019

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