Persistent Runny Nose in Older Adults
Home » Blog » Persistent Runny Nose in Older Adults

Persistent Runny Nose in Older Adults

Persistent Runny Nose in Elderly People

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and unfortunately, some health issues become more prevalent. One such common problem faced by older adults is a persistent runny nose. While it may seem like a minor inconvenience, a chronic, continuously running nose can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

According to National Council on Aging, the population of Americans aged 65 and above is projected to surge from 35 million to 86 million by the year 2050. Although the precise count of elderly individuals with rhinitis is undetermined, it is estimated that 40% of the overall population encounters nasal symptoms.

In this blog, we will explore the causes behind a persistent runny nose in older adults, discuss possible treatment options, and provide tips for prevention.

Treatment Options for Persistent Runny Nose

Treatment Options for Persistent Runny Nose

Addressing a persistent runny nose in seniors involves a holistic approach encompassing lifestyle modifications, dietary considerations, and home remedies. Should the condition persist and prove challenging to manage, seeking medical intervention to identify and treat the underlying cause is advisable. Here are practical tips for seniors grappling with a chronic runny nose:

  • Identify and Avoid Triggers: Pinpoint potential allergies triggering the condition through blood tests, seeking guidance from a senior’s healthcare provider, and taking necessary steps to minimize exposure to allergens.
  • Utilize a Humidifier: Introduce humidification in the senior’s living spaces to alleviate nasal congestion and provide relief to irritated nostrils.
  • Stay Hydrated: Encourage seniors to maintain adequate fluid intake, particularly water, to thin out mucus and facilitate easy expulsion.
  • Hot Teas: Recommend hot beverages like herbal tea, peppermint tea, green tea, and lemongrass tea, known for their soothing properties and potential to clear nasal passages. These teas also offer antioxidants, Vitamin C, and antiviral benefits.
  • Avoid Irritants: Minimize exposure to irritants such as tobacco smoke, strong odors, and spicy foods, which can exacerbate nasal symptoms.
  • Healthy Diet: Advocate for a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables to bolster the immune system and reduce inflammation, with special attention to allergen avoidance.
  • Regular Exercise: Encourage light to moderate exercise to improve circulation and overall respiratory health.
  • Steam Inhalation: While not a direct remedy, steam inhalation can soothe nasal passages, offering temporary relief from congestion. Methods include inhaling steam from hot water or utilizing warm compresses and hot showers.
  • Consult a Doctor: If symptoms persist, consult the senior’s primary care physician for professional guidance on improving their quality of life and addressing the root cause of the runny nose.

Understanding the causes, treatment options, and preventive measures for a persistent runny nose in older adults can help improve their overall well-being and quality of life. By taking proactive steps and seeking necessary medical guidance, individuals can find relief from this common concern and enjoy a more comfortable daily experience.

Causes of a Persistent Runny Nose

Causes of a Persistent Runny Nose

1. Allergies

Persistent runny noses in older adults often result from allergies like hay fever or allergic rhinitis, presenting a nuanced challenge in aging. With age, individuals may develop new allergies or heightened sensitivity to various allergens, ranging from pollen to dust mites, pet dander, and mold.

Seasonal variations, such as hay fever exacerbating symptoms during specific times of the year, and perennial allergic rhinitis, require ongoing management for relief. Recognizing these intricacies empowers both seniors and caregivers to adopt informed measures for effective runny nose management, ensuring a more comfortable lifestyle.

2. Non-allergic Rhinitis

Non-allergic rhinitis mirrors the nasal symptoms seen in allergies but distinguishes itself by not being triggered by allergic reactions. This condition arises from irritants such as pollution, strong odors, smoke, alchohol or variations in temperature and humidity. Unlike allergic rhinitis, non-allergic rhinitis is not contingent on an immune system response to allergens.

Instead, it is driven by the irritation of nasal passages due to environmental factors. Identifying and minimizing exposure to these irritants becomes crucial in managing non-allergic rhinitis, offering relief from symptoms akin to allergies without the underlying allergic triggers.

3. Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps, which are benign growths, can develop in the nasal passages, contributing to a persistent runny nose, congestion, and a reduction in the sense of smell. These soft, noncancerous protrusions often result from chronic inflammation of the nasal lining. As they enlarge, nasal polyps can obstruct the nasal passages, causing difficulty in breathing and a sense of congestion.

The chronic nature of their presence can lead to ongoing nasal symptoms, including a perpetually runny nose. Additionally, the proximity of nasal polyps to the olfactory area can impact the sense of smell, further underscoring the need for prompt identification and management of these growths to alleviate associated symptoms and improve overall nasal health.

4. Sinusitis

Sinusitis, characterized by inflammation of the sinuses, can lead to a continuous runny nose accompanied by facial pressure, headaches, and congestion, especially in instances of chronic sinusitis. This condition occurs when the sinus cavities, responsible for producing mucus, become inflamed or infected. The persistent inflammation hinders normal drainage, resulting in an ongoing runny nose.

Additionally, the build-up of mucus can lead to discomfort, pressure in the facial area, and recurrent headaches. Recognizing the symptoms of chronic sinusitis is crucial for effective management, as it often requires targeted medical interventions to alleviate the inflammation and improve overall sinus health.

5. Medication Side Effects

Certain medications, particularly certain blood pressure medications, may have the side effect of causing a runny nose or nasal congestion. These include the ones below.

  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Blood pressure-lowering drugs
  • Decongestant nasal sprays
  • Estrogen
  • Psychiatric drugs
  • Viagra

It is crucial for individuals to be vigilant and aware of potential symptoms related to medication. While these drugs may be essential for managing blood pressure, understanding and anticipating side effects such as nasal symptoms can empower individuals to communicate effectively with their healthcare providers.

Medication Side Effects

6. Underlying Health Issues

Persistent nasal discharge can be indicative of underlying health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or immune system disorders. Recognizing and addressing these conditions is paramount for effective management. COPD, a respiratory condition, can contribute to nasal symptoms, as can GERD, which involves stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus.

Immune system disorders may manifest in various ways, impacting nasal health. Identifying the root cause through medical evaluation is crucial to tailor an appropriate treatment plan and manage both the nasal symptoms and the underlying health condition effectively.

7. Age-Related Alterations

The aging process introduces changes in nasal passages, including the thinning and drying of nasal tissues. This natural evolution makes older individuals more prone to sneezing and experiencing a runny nose. Understanding these age-related alterations is crucial in distinguishing them from potential medical concerns.

By recognizing and understanding these diverse factors contributing to a chronic runny nose in seniors, individuals, along with their healthcare providers, can develop targeted strategies for effective management and improved quality of life.


  1. Treating rhinitis in the older population: special considerations – National Library of Medicine
  2. UTHealth Houston
  3. Rhinitis and the Older Adult – Arkansas Geriatric Education Collaborative

Similar Posts