The Difference Between a Constant Runny Nose Vs. Stuffy Nose

14 Aug 2018

If you have a cold or flu, you're likely to have both a runny and stuffy nose. But these closely-related symptoms actually have slightly different causes, and one can occur without the other. Read on to learn about the difference between the two — and the best ways to find relief.

Whether you're dealing with a running or stuffy nose — or both — inflammation is the root of your problem. Normally, your sinuses are empty pockets filled with air, lined by delicate tissues called your epithelium. When your sinuses become irritated — which may be because of exposure to chemicals or pollutants, or because of a viral or bacterial infection — that delicate lining swells with excess fluid. That swelling causes the sinuses to become congested, leading to that annoying stuffed-up feeling.

A runny nose can occur in combination with a stuffy nose, or you might experience a runny nose alone. It's caused by excess mucus production within your sinuses. Normally, your sinuses produce mucus for protection, helping to lubricate and moisturize the delicate tissues in your sinuses, and even trapping harmful particles and germs before they reach the underlying tissues.

If your sinuses start producing too much mucus, though, it starts draining out of your sinuses —and if it drains out your nose, you'll be reaching for tissues to stem the flow. A runny nose can also drain into your throat — known as postnasal drip — which can cause a sore throat, or even make you feel nauseated.

If you have a runny nose, look for an OTC that contains diphenhydramine HCl, an antihistamine. Since histamine normally triggers allergy-like symptoms, including sneezing and a runny nose, a medication that keeps histamine from functioning normally can help relieve and suppress those symptoms. Try Mucinex® Sinus-Max® Night Time Congestion & Cough to get relief with diphenhydramine HCl, along with phenylephrine HCl to help with nasal congestion.

In addition to reaching for over-the-counter relief, try these techniques to start feeling better.

  • Get Steamy: Breathing in warm, steamy air may help relieve a runny nose and congestion. Try sitting in the washroom with the shower running, or use a humidifier.
  • Try a Warm Compress: Use a warm, moist washcloth as a compress on your face several times daily.
  • See Your Doctor: Visit a physician if your symptoms last more than three weeks, if your nasal congestion is combined with a cough that lasts more than 10 days, if you have headaches or blurred vision, if you're running a fever or if your nasal discharge smells bad or is other than clear, white or yellow.
  1. Merck Manuals: Nasal Congestion and Rhinorrhea
  2. Mayo Clinic: Runny Nose
  3. Mayo Clinic: Nasal Congestion
  4. Pubmed Health: Comparing New Antihistamines
  5. University of Maryland Medical Center: Stuffy or Runny Nose - Adult