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.

Self-care

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