To risk stating the obvious: Winter weather is not kind to your nose.
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"The lack of humidity, cold [outdoor] air and forced-air indoor heating dehydrates the mucous membranes inside nostrils," Anthony Del Signore, MD, Director of Rhinology and Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery at Mount Sinai Union Square in New York City, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
That can leave you with dry nostrils and sinuses, a sense of congestion, nose crustiness and, yeah, even hard boogers.
Beyond easing the discomfort, you should address a dry nose — rather than just waiting for things to naturally get better when the weather warms up — for your overall health.
"Mucous is an important substance that the body produces to protect itself from foreign substances like viruses and bacteria," Philip Chen, MD, associate professor in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
It's pretty sticky, which helps it trap foreign particles that can then be removed by the body, and it also has antimicrobial properties that fight infection, he says.
Beyond the cold, dry weather, other causes of a dry nose include smoking, vaping and certain medications, Dr. Chen says. (Add that to an ever-growing list of reasons to consider quitting smoking and seek out the support you need.)
Now, you'll want to know how to treat a dry nose — and prevent that Sahara-like feeling in your schnoz in the future. Here are the simple steps you can take:
1. Try Saline
Nasal saline sprays and gels "keep nostrils nice and moist," Dr. Del Signore says. How often you'll need to use these will differ for everyone, but spray nostrils as much as needed for comfort, which could be twice a day or every four to six hours, he says.
If you find that you have to use nasal sprays all the time, then try a gel, which tends to last longer, Dr. Chen says. A saline gel is preferable to something like olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil or petroleum jelly, he says, which some people try to apply into the nostril via cotton swab.
"This isn't really how it was meant to be used, and you don't want to inhale it into your lungs," he says of these home-based dry nose remedies. (Also remember to avoid inserting a swab more than a quarter inch into your nostril. It's still not recommended, but keep this in mind in case you try it anyway because you have nothing else in the house at the time.)
2. Step It Up to an Rx
If you're also experiencing bleeding in the nose (looking at you, bloody, crusty boogers), talk to your doctor.
Dr. Del Signore says he or she may prescribe an antibiotic nasal ointment, which will moisturize nostrils and help heal any bacterial infections that may be occurring.
3. Sip Often
Drinking water throughout the day is important for keeping your whole body (including your nose) well-hydrated — even in winter, Dr. Chen says. Keep a water bottle hand, and fill it up often.
Not sure how much H2O to aim for? A good general rule is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day.
4. Keep It Humid
If you have a humidifier attached to your furnace inside your home, check the humidity levels and increase it if necessary.
Otherwise, portable humidifiers can also be helpful to introduce needed moisture into a room, Dr. Del Signore says.
Traveling? Dr. Chen recommends hanging wet towels in the room as a dry nose remedy. (Genius!)
5. Look at Your Overall Health
There are certain medical conditions that can make you more prone to the effects of a dry nose, including Sjögren's syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disease where your body attacks its own glands that make tears and saliva, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. That can lead to dried-out nasal passages.
6. Check Your Meds
If you suspect a new medication might be causing dryness, get in touch with your doctor, who can review what you're taking and make changes if needed.
Also important to note is that you might mistakenly attribute dry nose to allergies and take antihistamines, Dr. Chen says. These can exacerbate dryness, so talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter allergy meds.
When to See Your Doctor for Dry Nose
If the home remedies for dry nose don't work, make an appointment with your doctor.
This is especially important "if the dryness is associated with recurrent nosebleeds or difficulty breathing through the nose," Dr. Chen says, which may indicate there's a nasal blockage.