What can be done to relieve a runny nose?

Prescription medicine, such as antibiotics, is not needed to treat a runny nose, which usually gets better on its own. Sometimes, an over-the-counter decongestant medicine may help adults, but might not be appropriate if you have certain conditions or take other medications. Check with the doctor to see what over-the-counter medicines are appropriate for you.

Typically, the best treatment for a runny nose includes:

  • Rest as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
  • Use saline nasal spray to help relieve symptoms. Limit use of decongestant nasal sprays to no longer than a few days, as instructed on package labels.
  • A cool-mist humidifier at the bedside can combat congestion worsened by dry, winter air.
  • Stay indoors when pollen count is high, usually in the early morning and on windy days.
  • Keep windows closed during allergy season, and use air conditioning whenever possible.
  • Wear a dust mask if working outdoors, change clothing, and take a shower after coming indoors.
  • Avoid contact with cats and dogs if you are sensitive to animal dander.

In addition, there are many safe and effective over-the-counter medications available to help control allergy symptoms, such as nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines. If the symptoms are severe, a doctor may recommend prescription medications, or referral to an allergist, for testing and targeted therapy.

What are some simple home remedies to treat a runny nose?

Over-the-counter saline, or salt water, drops can be gently squirted into the nostrils to loosen the mucus in the nose. The liquid and mucus can then be suctioned out of the nose with a rubber syringe, or bulb.

Do over-the-counter medicines help treat a runny nose?

Every person is different and over-the-counter medicines may relieve the symptoms of a runny nose for some and not others. The best treatment for a runny nose includes eating healthy, drinking plenty of fluids, and resting as much as possible.

Unless prescribed by the doctor, do not give over-the-counter cold medicines to a child under age 4 years.

Can a runny nose be prevented?

Practicing good hygiene is important and often can help stop germs from spreading. Here are some simple tips:

  • Wash hands often.
  • Throw away used tissues after blowing or wiping the nose.
  • Keep away from those who have colds or infections.
  • Eat healthy and exercise regularly to help boost the immune system.
  • Cough and sneeze into the inside of the elbow, not into the hand.
  • Clean and disinfect common surfaces, such as tables and countertops, toys, door handles, and bathroom fixtures.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy