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.

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March 16, 2021

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 offer sweet relief for allergies?
  21. Does zinc work for colds?
  22. Dust mite allergy
  23. Flu shots
  24. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  25. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  26. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  27. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  28. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  29. Headaches 101: Know your type
  30. Headaches and hormones
  31. Headaches in children
  32. Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms
  33. High-dose flu vaccines: How are they different from other flu vaccines?
  34. Humidifier care 101
  35. Humidifiers
  36. Influenza (flu)
  37. Measles
  38. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  39. Milk allergy
  40. MRSA infection
  41. MRSA prevention
  42. Nasal Cleaning
  43. Nasal polyps
  44. Nasal spray addiction: Is it real?
  45. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  46. Nighttime headaches: Relief
  47. Nonallergic rhinitis
  48. Pain Management
  49. Peanut allergy
  50. Pet allergy
  51. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  52. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  53. Roseola
  54. Rubella
  55. Stress and headaches: Stop the cycle
  56. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  57. Swollen lymph nodes
  58. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  59. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  60. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  61. Whooping cough
  62. Whooping cough
  63. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?