Coping with an itchy nose can be quite frustrating. Common causes of nasal itchiness include airborne irritants, allergies and viral infections, among others. Several remedies can provide short-term relief from this common symptom, most of which are inexpensive and available over the counter. Options include oral or topical medications, nasal rinses and environmental modifications. Nasal itchiness that persists despite home treatment should be evaluated by your healthcare provider.
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Inhaling irritants and airborne allergens -- such as pollen, mold spores and pet dander -- is a leading cause of nasal itchiness. Saline nasal rinses or sprays can alleviate this symptom by removing the irritating substances from your nasal lining. This remedy can also temporarily relieve itchiness and congestion caused by a head cold. Several saline nasal rinses and sprays are available over the counter. You can also make saline nasal rinse at home, but be sure to use only appropriately filtered or boiled tap water, or distilled or sterile water purchased from a store. This remedy is typically used 2 to 3 times daily.
Release of the chemical histamine in response to an allergic reaction to airborne allergens leads to an array of symptoms, including nasal itchiness, congestion and sneezing. The American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend oral, second generation antihistamines for people with airborne allergies whose primary symptoms are nasal itchiness and sneezing. These medications are available over the counter and include cetirizine (Zyrtec), fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Alavert, Claritin). Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is also effective and available over the counter but often causes drowsiness.
Nasal Steroid Sprays
Over-the-counter nasal steroid sprays can be helpful for itchiness, sneezing and congestion caused by allergies and are recommended by the American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery and the American Academy of Family Physicians. These sprays can also be helpful for nasal itchiness caused by certain types of nonallergic rhinitis, a group of conditions that lead to hay fever-like symptoms but are not caused by allergies. Nasal steroid sprays available over the counter include budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone (Flonase) and triamcinolone (Nasacort). Be aware that it can take up to a week for these sprays to provide significant symptom relief.
Depending on the cause of your nasal itchiness, altering your environment might help ease your discomfort. For example, you can often limit your symptoms by avoiding irritants, such as cigarette smoke or occupational fumes, or airborne allergic triggers. If you notice your nose feels both itchy and dry, you might try using a vaporizer or humidifier.
Next Steps, Warnings and Precautions
Although certainly annoying, an itchy nose usually doesn't indicate a serious health problem and often responds well to home treatment. However, if you experience persistent or recurring nasal itchiness, see your healthcare provider to diagnose the cause of your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment, which might include prescription medication or another form of therapy.
See your doctor as soon as possible if your itchy nose is accompanied by other signs or symptoms, including fever, facial swelling, headaches, vomiting, nosebleeds, wheezing, chest pain or tightness, or other unusual symptoms.
Reviewed and revised by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.