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Alternative namesRunny nose; Postnasal drip; Rhinorrhea
Nasal discharge is any mucus-like material that comes out of the nose.
Nasal discharges are common, but rarely serious. They can include drainage from inflamed or infected sinuses, in which case it may be thick or discolored.
Problems from the runny nose are the result of excess mucus production. The mucus may run down the back of your throat (postnasal drip) or cause a cough that is usually worse at night. A sore throat may also result from excessive mucus drainage.
The mucus drip may plug up the tube between the nose and the ear, causing an ear infection and pain. The mucus drip may also plug the sinus passages, causing sinus infection and pain.
Keep the mucus thin (rather than thick and sticky). This helps prevent complications, such as ear and sinus infections, and plugging of your nasal passages. To thin the mucus:
Antihistamines may reduce the amount of mucus. Be careful, because some antihistamines make people drowsy. Don't use over-the-counter nasal sprays more frequently than 3 days on and 3 days off, unless ordered by the doctor.
OVERUSE OF ANTIBIOTICS
Many people think that a green or yellow nasal discharge means a bacterial infection, which requires antibiotics. This is NOT true. Colds will often begin with a clear nasal discharge, but after several days it usually turns creamy, yellow, or green for a time. Colds are caused by viruses, and antibiotics will not help. A green or nasal discharge is not a sign you need antibiotics.
Call your health care provider if
Your doctor may perform a physical examination , including an examination of the ears, nose, and throat.
Your doctor may ask medical history questions, such as:
Diagnostic tests that may be performed for persistent problems include:
Update Date: 2/3/2002A.D.A.M. editorial. Previously reviewed by Poune Saberi, M.D., M.P.H., Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network (2/3/2002).
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT