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When a Runny Nose Signals a Larger Problem

Anything that irritates your nasal tissues can cause a runny nose. If you have a cold or influenza, a runny nose comes with the territory. Under these circumstances your runny nose resolves on its own as the infection runs its course. 

But a runny nose that fails to get better is a warning sign that something else is amiss.

Our skilled otolaryngologists here at Southern ENT see many patients who come in with runny noses that don’t seem to get better or that resolve only to return. This is often a sign of something more than the run-of-the-mill common cold.

See a specialist if you experience a chronic runny nose with no apparent cause. When you come to see us at Southern ENT, we perform a comprehensive evaluation to get to the root of the problem. Here, our experts discuss problems that can cause a runny nose. 

Deviated septum

Sometimes a chronic runny nose is the result of a deviated septum. The nasal septum is a thin wall that separates your nasal passages into two sides. A deviated septum occurs when this wall is off-center. 

You may be surprised to learn that most people have some deviation in their septum. When it is minor, symptoms are less likely. But a significantly deviated septum can interfere with nasal function, preventing your sinuses from draining properly and resulting in a runny nose. 

At Southern ENT, we routinely perform septoplasty, a surgery that corrects abnormalities in the nasal septum. This procedure corrects the position of your septum and restores nasal function.


Allergies are a typical cause of nasal symptoms, including a runny nose. If you have itchy, watery eyes and sneezing along with a runny nose, it’s likely that you have allergies.

Allergic rhinitis occurs when you breathe in something you’re allergic to. The body responds by releasing chemicals that play a role in the body’s inflammatory response. Histamine is one of the main substances responsible for symptoms such as itching and sneezing.

Allergy tests can determine whether you have an allergy. Common allergens include:

If your runny nose tends to occur in the spring and summer, you may have seasonal allergies. If you’re allergic to dust mites or pet dander, you may experience symptoms year-round

Chronic sinusitis

Nearly everyone experiences a stuffy nose at some point in their lives. When it lingers for weeks at a time, it could be chronic sinusitis. Swollen and inflamed sinuses can make your nose stuffy and interfere with normal sinus drainage. 

Chronic sinusitis is most often linked to allergies, unlike acute sinusitis, which is commonly caused by an infection.

Nasal polyps

Noncancerous growths can develop on the lining of your nasal passages. They’re most often linked to allergies, recurrent infection, and asthma. Nasal polyps don’t always cause symptoms. Polyps that grow large or obstruct your sinuses can cause problems, including a runny nose. 


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added runny nose to the growing list of COVID-19 symptoms. The addition comes as health experts learn more about how COVID-19 affects the body. Other nasal symptoms include:

You should seek immediate medical guidance if you suspect your symptoms are due to COVID-19.

As we discussed here, a runny nose can have a wide variety of causes. Symptoms that are severe or lasts for 12 weeks or longer warrant a visit to an otolaryngologist. That’s the best way to know what you’re dealing with. 

To schedule a consultation with one of our otolaryngologists, call the office nearest you or fill out our online form to request an appointment. Our offices are located in Thibodaux, Houma, Raceland, Morgan City, New Iberia, Opelousas, and Youngsville, Louisiana.

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