Why Does Your Nose Keep Running?

Understand why your nose keeps running and how inflamed sinuses and mucus production are involved.

Why Does Your Nose Keep Running?
Photo by CDC / Unsplash

When you're down with a cold, the relentless cycle of blowing your nose only to have it fill right back up can be exasperating.

But what causes this never-ending flow of mucus?

Inflamed Sinuses and Nasal Passages

During an illness, the sinuses become inflamed, leading to a buildup of mucus.

When you blow your nose, the sinuses temporarily narrow to expel the mucus, providing a brief sense of relief.

However, as the sinuses relax, they swell back up, causing the nasal passages to become blocked once again.

Mucus Production Process

Mucus is produced by special cells known as goblet cells, which are found in the mucous membranes lining the respiratory and digestive tracts.

These cells secrete mucus to protect and moisturize the lining of the airways.

When the body is fighting an infection, these cells may increase their mucus production in an effort to trap and eliminate pathogens.

Role of Cilia

The respiratory tract is lined with tiny hair-like structures called cilia, which continually beat in a coordinated manner to move mucus and trapped particles out of the airways.

However, when the body is unwell, the cilia's function may be impaired, leading to a less effective clearance of mucus.

This can contribute to the feeling of congestion and the recurring buildup of mucus, even after blowing your nose.

Immune Response and Symptom Management

Runny noses and excess mucus are the body's way of defending itself.

When the immune system detects a threat, it ramps up mucus production as a protective measure.

While the resulting congestion can be uncomfortable, it's an indication that the body is actively fighting off the invading pathogens.

Environmental Factors

Apart from the physiological aspects, environmental factors such as dry air or irritants can also influence mucus production.

For instance, dry air can lead to thickening of mucus, making it more difficult to expel.

On the other hand, exposure to allergens or pollutants can trigger an increased production of mucus as the body attempts to flush out these irritants.

The rapid filling of a runny nose after blowing is a result of a complex interplay of physiological responses, including inflammation of the sinuses, increased mucus production by goblet cells, impaired ciliary function, and environmental factors.

Next time you find yourself repeatedly reaching for a tissue, know that it's all part of your body's intricate defense system in action.