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When I’m Cold, Why Does My Nose Get Runny?

How come my nose runs when its colder outside? Is there a reason why a nose will drip more so in the winter time?

1 Answer

Our nose’s main function is to smell and filtrate the air we breathe. And you know that runny feeling you get when you’re sick or cold? Well, the nose actually runs even when you’re healthy! It secretes about 32 oz. or 0.94 liters a day, but rather than the mucus coming out of your nose, you swallow it down your throat. The body does this to help moisten and filter the air we breathe.

So what happens to your nose when it’s cold? The reason your nose gets runny is actually quite simple. Beneath the glands that produce the mucus is an abundance of blood vessels. These blood vessels help provide the glands with mucus and other liquids. When the air is cold, the blood vessels enlarge meaning there is more blood delivered to the nose to defend from the cold, yet due to the enlargement, more mucus is produced.

Once the mucus exceeds what is normal, the excess cannot be swallowed. The added supply of mucus will eventually result in a runny nose because the surplus supply needs somewhere to go. If you move to a warmer place, you will notice that the mucus will either reduce or stop running. This is because the blood vessels have contracted and the mucus production is returning back to normal.

Since our noses run when it’s cold, this leads many people to believe that they have a cold or flu like symptoms. This simply is not the case. What the body is doing is filtrating to escape catching a sickness. Granted a runny nose does not completely help in avoiding an illness, however for 2 or 3 minutes when you’re in the cold, the increase in mucus aids in the reduction of congestion because you are forced to blow your nose. Once you return to normal temperatures, the “symptoms” will disappear.

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