Do you need to have a tissue handy all the time because of a runny nose? Yes, menopause can increase the occurrence and frequency of that annoying symptom. So here’s the blow by blow on this topic.
What is a runny nose?
A runny nose (rhinorrhea) is when excess mucus is discharged through the nostrils. It can be caused by allergies, the common cold or flu, exposure to cold weather, overuse of nasal decongestants, and spicy foods. If the mucus travels down the back of your nose to your throat, it is known as postnasal drip.
When the body is invaded by an irritant, such as mold, dust, pollen, a cold or flu virus, or cold air, it can irritate the lining of your nose. This triggers the production of clear mucus, which in turn captures the irritants and eliminates them from the body through the sinuses and nostrils. Allergens such as pollen and mold trigger the release of histamines, which cause a runny nose. Some people experience a runny nose because they have gustatory rhinitis, a nonallergic condition that causes your nose to run when you eat certain foods.
How is a runny nose associated with menopause?
Let’s blame the fluctuating hormones! When estrogen levels change, it can increase resistance in the nasal airways and result in a runny nose. Another reason is related to allergies. According to Sherry Ross, MD, “Many women experience a worsening of their allergies during menopause,” and “some women even develop a new onset of allergies as a result of increasing production of histamines that cause allergic reactions.”
Hormonal imbalance also can cause the nasal blood vessel to become inflamed, resulting in an increase in mucus production and a runny nose. This condition is known as hormonal rhinitis. This condition is also common in pregnancy and may occur among women who take hormone contraceptives.
Hormonal changes also can contribute to post-nasal drip. Researchers note that post-nasal drip around menopause is an allergic reaction to a woman’s changing hormones. That’s because estrogen has an impact on the immune system by triggering inflammation.
How to manage a runny nose naturally
You can put the brakes on a runny nose by trying any of the following suggestions.
Sip hot herbal tea: Some herbal teas have anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties and may help with your runny nose. Select chamomile, mint, ginger, stinging nettle, or butterbur for help with congestion and dripping nose. Do not drink iced tea, as you need the heat and steam from the tea to help with your airways.
Steam: All you need is a bowl of steaming water and a towel to practice this remedy. Position your head over the bowl and cover your head with the towel. Slowly inhale the steam to help clear the mucus from your nose. Continue until you feel clear, typically 10 to 20 minutes. You may need to replenish the hot water.
Steam and oil: For additional help with a runny nose and congestion, you can add a few drops of essential oil to the hot water. Suggestions include rosemary, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oils.
Use menthol: Applying a small amount of menthol rub to the area below your nose may help with breathing and cold symptoms.
Blow gently: Blowing your nose vigorously can actually be harmful because it may send mucus into your ears, resulting in an ear infection. Keep a tissue with you at all times so you are not tempted to sniffle the mucus back into your sinuses. Blow gently and as needed.
Stuff your nose: This may not be the most attractive remedy, but placing a wad of soft tissue into one nostril at a time can absorb excess mucus.
When to call your doctor
A runny nose is rarely a medical problem. However, if you experience fever, difficulty breathing, or other unusual symptoms, call your doctor as soon as possible.
A runny nose can be an annoyance and somewhat embarrassing, but otherwise it usually doesn’t present a medical problem. Try one or more of the suggested natural remedies to stop the flow!