When to see a doctor

By Mayo Clinic Staff

A runny nose may be annoying and uncomfortable, but it usually clears up on its own. Occasionally, it can be a sign of a more serious problem. A runny nose may be serious in infants.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
  • You have a high fever.
  • Your nasal discharge is yellow and green and is accompanied by sinus pain or fever. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • You have blood in your nasal discharge or a persistent clear discharge after a head injury.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child is younger than 2 months and is running a fever.
  • Your baby's runny nose or congestion causes trouble nursing or makes breathing difficult.


Until you see your doctor, try these simple steps to relieve symptoms:

  • Sniffing and swallowing or gently blowing your nose.
  • Avoid known allergic triggers.
  • If the runny nose is a persistent, watery discharge, particularly if accompanied by sneezing and itchy or watery eyes, your symptoms may be allergy-related. An over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine may help. You can also try an OTC nasal steroid, such as budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy), fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief) or triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24 Hour). Be sure to follow the label instructions exactly.
  • For babies and small children, use a soft rubber suction bulb to gently remove any secretions.

Try these measures to relieve postnasal drip — when excess mucus builds up in the back of your throat:

  • Avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke and sudden humidity changes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Try nasal saline sprays or rinses.
March 21, 2019

See also

  1. Alcohol intolerance
  2. Allergies
  3. Allergy medications: Know your options
  4. Allergy-proof your home
  5. Alpha-gal syndrome
  6. Aspergillosis
  7. Avoid rebound nasal congestion
  8. Bronchiolitis
  9. Can chicken soup cure a cold?
  10. Chicken soup: Can it treat a cold?
  11. Chronic cough
  12. Chronic daily headaches
  13. Cluster headache
  14. Cold and flu viruses: How long can they live outside the body?
  15. Cold or allergy: Which is it?
  16. Cold remedies
  17. Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm?
  18. Common cold
  19. Common cold in babies
  20. Does honey really help with allergies?
  21. Does zinc work for colds?
  22. Dust mite allergy
  23. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  24. Flu shots
  25. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  26. Fluzone High-Dose: What distinguishes it from other flu vaccines?
  27. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  28. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  29. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  30. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  31. Headaches 101: Know your type
  32. Headaches and hormones
  33. Headaches in children
  34. Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms
  35. Honey: An effective cough remedy?
  36. How well do you wash your hands?
  37. Humidifier care 101
  38. Humidifiers
  39. Influenza (flu)
  40. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  41. Mayo Clinic Minute: The facts about three flu vaccine myths
  42. Mayo Clinic Minute: Why you need your flu shot now
  43. Measles
  44. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  45. Milk allergy
  46. MRSA infection
  47. MRSA prevention
  48. Nasal Cleaning
  49. Nasal polyps
  50. Nasal spray addiction: Is it real?
  51. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  52. Neti pot solution: Can I make my own?
  53. Nighttime headaches: Relief
  54. Nonallergic rhinitis
  55. Pain Management
  56. Peanut allergy
  57. Pet allergy
  58. Pet allergy: Are there hypoallergenic dog breeds?
  59. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  60. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  61. Roseola
  62. Rubella
  63. Stress and headaches: Stop the cycle
  64. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  65. Swollen lymph nodes
  66. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  67. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  68. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  69. Whooping cough
  70. Whooping cough
  71. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?