To function effectively, the nasal passages must be kept moist at all times, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. While this is not generally a problem, prolonged exposure to dry climates can dry out the nose and lead to a variety of problems. Most dry nose problems are easily resolved by increasing environmental humidity levels and by taking proper care of the nose during harsh weather.
When the nose becomes dry due to low environmental humidity, it cannot function to moisturize inhaled air, which can lead to dryness and irritation in the bronchial tubes and lining of the lungs, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. A dry nose is also less effective at filtering particles from inhaled air and at warming cold air before it enters your lungs. This puts your throat, lungs and overall health at risk.
Dry climates with low humidity levels can lead to a variety of nose problems. When the nasal passages become too dry, they may become irritated, painful and crack. Chronic nosebleeds are a common type of nose problem associated with dry climate, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, especially in children. The Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates of Corpus Christi states that prolonged lack of moisture can lead to thinning of the tissues inside the nasal passages, making the nose more susceptible to injury and infection and causing reduced or thickened nasal secretions. Dry climates can also cause flaking and cracking on the outside of the nostrils.
Prevention of nose problems in dry climates involves restoring or maintaining hydration of the nasal passages. Using a humidifier inside your home and office will increase environmental humidity and prevent your nasal passages from drying out. Applying petroleum jelly to the outside of your nostrils before going out in cold, dry weather may prevent chapping and cracking. However, Dr. Lawrence E. Gibson of the Mayo Clinic warns that using petroleum jelly for this purpose for prolonged periods may lead to lipoid pneumonia, a potentially serious condition that causes chest pain, cough and breathing problems.
Saline nose sprays are a quick way to moisturize your nasal passages and thin nasal secretions resulting from dry climates. You can purchase these in most pharmacies or make your own by mixing 1/4 tsp. of salt and 1/4 tsp. of baking soda into 8 oz. of warm water, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Increasing the humidity level of your home will help treat existing nose problems as well as prevent them. If a medication is suspected of contributing to your nose problems, a change in dose may help alleviate your symptoms.
Some medications and medical conditions can contribute to nose problems, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. Use of anti-anxiety medications, antihistamines and diuretic blood pressure medications can increase dryness and associated problems. Certain health conditions, such as Sjogren's syndrome and menopause, can also cause dry nasal passages. Nose problems that fail to respond to humidifier use and saline treatment require medical evaluation.
- American Academy of Otolaryngology: Fact Sheet: Your Nose, the Guardian of Your Lungs
- MayoClinic.com: Petroleum Jelly: Safe for a Dry Nose?
- University of Michigan Health System: Saline Nasal Sprays and Irrigation
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Indoor Air facts No. 8: Use and Care of Home Humidifiers
- Ear, Nose, and Throat Associates of Corpus Christi: Post-Nasal Drip