The only thing worse than having a dry booger once in a while is being plagued by dry boogers in your nose every day. That feeling like something is constantly stuck in your nose can be distracting or straight-up uncomfortable.
But there's good news: Dry, crusty boogers (experts use the term "nasal crusting") usually happen for specific reasons. And once you can pinpoint the cause, you can be on your way to clearer, happier nasal passages, because scabby boogers aren't usually a big deal and tend to be easily remedied.
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Here's a look at some of the most common culprits, plus how to keep nose scabs at bay. Plus, learn when nasal crusting could indicate a serious problem.
1. Dry Indoor Air
If your crusting tends to be the worst when you first wake up and isn't accompanied by any other symptoms, your bedroom environment could be to blame.
Dry indoor air, which is especially common in the winter, can cause the mucus in your nose to lose moisture, says Kathleen Kelly, MD, an otolaryngologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. And that can easily give you a case of the crusties.
2. Healing From a Nosebleed
A hard, outer booger shell is annoying, but it can be there to do your body good.
Case in point? Sometimes a crusty outer layer will form when your nasal tissue is healing from an injury, like a nosebleed, Dr. Kelly points out.
3. Nonallergic Rhinitis
Nonallergic rhinitis is basically the catch-all term for nasal gook that forms for reasons other than allergies. Sometimes the cause can be a virus (like a cold), but exposure to triggers like smoke, spicy food, certain odors and even some medications can cause the lining of the nose to become inflamed and mucus-filled, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Usually the mucus stays pretty drippy, but in rare cases, it's possible for the mucus to become hard, dry and foul-smelling.
4. Deviated Septum
Deviated septums happen when the septum — the thin wall that divides the nose — is off-center. Some people are born with them, but the condition can also develop as the result of an injury, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Often deviated symptoms go completely unnoticed. But severe ones can make it harder to breathe and cause the nasal passages to dry out, which can result in crusting or bleeding, notes the Mayo Clinic.
5. Surgical Complications
Sometimes nasal surgeries can cause side effects like crusting. It most often happens when a person undergoes turbinate surgery, a procedure that helps improve airflow through the nose, according to a January 2015 review in Current Allergy and Asthma Reports.
Experts don't fully understand the reason, but in rare cases, turbinate surgery can lead to empty nose syndrome, a condition that actually makes nasal breathing harder and leads to dryness and crusting, the review notes.
6. Certain Diseases
In rare cases, unusually dry, crusty boogers could be related to an underlying autoimmune condition such as granulomatosis with polyangiitis. The disorder causes inflammation of the blood vessels in several areas of the body, including the nose, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That can lead to crusty or pus-like nasal drainage and frequent sinus infections, as well as other symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, fever, joint pain, numbness, skin sores and rashes.
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis can become serious quickly, because it can affect the health of blood vessels in the organs, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you notice possible symptoms, see a doctor right away.
What to Do About Dry Boogers
1. Blow Them Out
Blowing your nose is a better bet than trying to pick out dry boogers, Dr. Kelly says. Grabbing a scab could potentially injure your nasal lining and cause bleeding, not to mention introduce germs into your nasal cavity that can make you sick.
2. Use a Rinse
If you've got a dry booger lodged in your nostril, softening and hydrating the crust will help it come out more easily. A nasal saline rinse or spray, or inhaling steam from the shower should do the trick, per Harvard Health Publishing. For crust around the edge of your nostril, try applying a warm, moist washcloth to your nose for a few minutes, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
3. Humidify Your Space
As for keeping those crusties from coming back? Be proactive about keeping your nasal passages well-hydrated, Dr. Kelly recommends. Run a humidifier at 30 to 50 percent humidity to add more moisture to your indoor air, per the NIH.
You can also get in the habit of adding moisture to your nostrils with a nasal saline spray, which has the added benefit of clearing out mucus before it has the chance to crust up.
4. Stay Hydrated
Finally? Drink plenty of water. The more H2O that goes into your body, the more that's available to help those nostrils stay moist and comfortable, per Harvard Health Publishing.
When to See a Doctor
Dry, crusty boogers aren't a big deal if they only pop up once in a while and are easy for you to get rid of. But you should touch base with your doctor if at-home methods aren't kicking the crusting to the curb or if you feel like the boogers are making it harder for you to breathe, Dr. Kelly says.
Seek medical attention, too, if the crustiness is accompanied by pus, nosebleeds or coughing up blood, recommends the Mayo Clinic. These could be signs of an underlying disorder such as granulomatosis with polyangiitis.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Nonallergic rhinitis"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Deviated septum"
- Mayo Clinic: "Deviated septum"
- Current Allergy and Asthma Reports: "Empty nose syndrome"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis: To Know the Nose"
- Mayo Clinic: "Granulomatosis with polyangiitis"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What to do about sinusitis"
- National Institutes of Health: "Marvels of mucus and phlegm"
- National Institutes of Health: "Humidifiers and health"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.