At-Home Remedies for Dry Nose

By Sarah Malka, MD
Medically reviewed
November 8, 2021

Nasal dryness can be an irritating side effect of allergies or a common viral infection, like the cold or flu.

A dry nose can be a result of blowing your nose often when you’re sick or experiencing allergies, or due to dry air.

Even after a trigger or infection clears, a dry nose can continue to cause discomfort.

Thankfully, there are some effective at-home remedies that can help to soothe nasal dryness. 

Keep in mind that if you’re experiencing any severe symptoms, such as frequent nose bleeds, discharge, or prolonged high fever in addition to nasal dryness, it’s important to reach out to your doctor or provider for help. 

In this article, I’ll discuss what it means to have a dry nose, what can cause it, and some common symptoms.

I’ll then outline some at-home remedies that may help if you’re experiencing nasal dryness.

Finally, I’ll talk about when you should consider seeing a doctor for your dry nose symptoms. 

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What is a Dry Nose?

Many people experience a dry nose as a result of blowing their nose too often when suffering from allergies or a viral infection, such as a cold or flu.

Though many people experience dry nose, which is sometimes referred to as rhinitis sicca, there remains no specific medical definition of the condition.

Dry nose can cause various symptoms and have many different causes.

Common causes

  • Irritants, including smoke and dust
  • Viral infections, including the common cold, influenza, acute sinusitis, and others
  • Bacterial infections, including pneumonia or whooping cough
  • Allergies
  • Certain medications, including antihistamines and decongestants
  • Being in a dry room or dry environment
  • Long-distance flights
  • Old age

Symptoms

The primary symptom is the feeling of a dry or chapped nose.

But additional symptoms can also be present, such as:

  • Itching
  • Congestion
  • Mild burning
  • Nasal obstruction, scabbing, or crusting
  • Unpleasant or foul smell
  • Diminished sense of smell
  • Nose bleeds

At-home Treatments for Dry Nose

In many cases, dry nose will resolve on its own once an infection or irritant has been cleared.

In the meantime, there are several at-home remedies you can try to soothe your symptoms and relieve nasal dryness: 

Humidifier

Home humidifiers are an excellent way to relieve the physical discomforts of dry nose, throat, lips and air.

Humidifiers can also help to prevent allergies and asthma symptoms triggered by dust mites and mold.

One common recommendation is to place a humidifier in the bedroom to help soothe dry nasal passages while you sleep. 

But be sure to use your humidifier safely: Excess moisture caused by humidifiers can lead to bacterial or mold growth.

Keep the humidity of your room at or below 50%, and clean your humidifiers regularly.

Fluids

Staying hydrated is an important habit to maintain for overall health, but it can be particularly helpful when battling a dry nose.

Drinking plenty of fluids, especially non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic, and non-sugary beverages, can help keep your tissues moist.

Nasal Spray

Studies show that nasal sprays can be an effective treatment for dry nose.

Different types of sprays can help with different symptoms and needs.

  • Saline sprays: These can moisten nasal passages, and may be used as needed for a dry nose.
  • Nasal sprays that contain phenylephrine or oxymetazoline: These sprays, such as Afrin, can cause a worsening of congestion, irritation, and dryness—also called a “rebound effect”—if used for more than three days.
  • Antihistamines and corticosteroid nasal sprays: These sprays, such as fluticasone (Flonase) and Nasacort, can safely be used for longer than three days, but may cause irritation or dryness for some users.

Steam

Steam can be soothing on dry nasal passages.

Lingering in a hot shower or steam room can temporarily work to moisten nasal passages. 

You can also create a steam bath for your nose.

To do so, put lightly boiled water into a bowl. Bend your head above the bowl, and drape a towel over the back of your head.

Keep your face at a safe distance from the boiled water, and breathe in the steam. Be careful not to burn your nose or face! 

Moisturize

To relieve dry or cracked skin on your nose, you can apply small amounts of a water-based lubricant or lotion.

There are ointments made specifically for this purpose, or you can use any gentle moisturizing ointment—or even an antibiotic ointment.

Be careful with petroleum or petrolatum-based moisturizers and jellies (such as Vaseline or Aquaphor).

When used excessively, these can be inhaled and build up within the lungs.

To be safe, use these moisturizers sparingly on the inside of your nose, or avoid them entirely.

Instead, use water-based ointments and those made for nasal use.

Oils

Diffusing essential oils such as eucalyptus may help to make breathing easier when suffering from a dry nose.

Never apply essential oils directly to the skin or inhale them directly.

Some essential oils can be irritating or toxic to children, so consult a healthcare professional before using.

Nasal Irrigation

Rinsing your nasal passages can help to clear excess mucus and moisten membranes.

Called nasal irrigation, or a “sinus flush,” is a process for rinsing the inside of your nasal passages with a saline, or saltwater, solution, often with a small irrigating device called a neti pot.

Some people also use a neti pot to moisten their nasal passages when they’re feeling dry from being in heated or air conditioned indoor spaces.

Whether you use a neti pot or another device—like a dropper, or even cupped hands—the process is relatively similar, and has the same requirements for water: It shouldn’t be plain tap water.

Tap water can have an amoeba called Naegleria swimming in it.

Your stomach acid can kill this amoeba, so it’s still safe to drink.

But if it gets in your nose, it can cause an infection—and even death. 

To make sure your nasal irrigation water is Naelgeria-free, use only distilled water, tap water that has been boiled and then left to cool to room temperature, or water that has been passed through a filter that is specifically designed to trap these ameobas.

There are several at-home, pre-mixed nasal irrigation kits available over-the-counter (OTC), like NeilMed sinus rinse.

Otherwise, you can create one at home using a sanitized neti pot, small pitcher, or small bulb syringe, two cups of distilled water or water that you have boiled and cooled to room temperature, and ½ teaspoon of non-iodized salt mixed with ½ teaspoon of baking soda.

When the solution is mixed and poured into the neti pot, syringe, or pitcher, tip your head gently over a sink and slowly run the solution through one nostril until it drains out the other.

When half of the solution has been drained, tip your head to the other side and run the solution through the other nostril.

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When to See a Doctor or Healthcare Provider

It’s rare for a dry nose to be a symptom of a more serious condition.

However, if you experience symptoms that persist beyond two weeks, or if you experience severe symptoms including loss of smell, frequent nosebleeds, fever, or discharge, reach out to your provider or doctor.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can nasal dryness be a symptom of COVID-19?
Dry nose or nasal dryness is unlikely to be the only symptom of COVID-19. However, if you’re experiencing other symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, chills, or shortness of breath, or if you’ve recently been in contact with someone with a confirmed COVID-19 infection, speak to your doctor or provider about how best to get tested.
What is the most effective way to keep nasal passages moist?
There are several home remedies that can help to keep your nasal passages moist, including using a humidifier, nasal irrigation, or a steam bath.
Is nasal dryness a symptom of a bigger issue?
It’s very rare for nasal dryness to be a symptom of a more serious condition. However, in rare cases, it can be a sign of Sjogren's syndrome, an immune disorder, or atrophic rhinitis.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Sarah Malka, MD

Dr. Sarah Malka is a board certified emergency medicine physician with K Health. She completed her residency at Harvard Medical School.