The nasal passages are lined with a mucus secreting epithelium that keeps the passages moist and helps to trap airborne dust and microbes. Apart from keeping the nasal epithelium healthy, the moisture also humidifies air that travels down to the lungs. If dry air constantly enters the airways and lungs, it will lead to drying out of these linings and compromise the health of the other parts of the respiratory tract.

Dryness of the nasal passages may lead to :

  • Nosebleeds (epistaxis)
  • Dried nasal mucus (crusts)
  • Nasal congestion
  • Disruption in the sense of smell (hyposmia – diminished smell)
  • Pain in the root of the nose, sinus pain or even a headache
  • Aggravation of conditions like rhinitis and sinusitis

Prolonged and persistent dryness of the nasal passages may increase the chances of both upper and respiratory tract infections.

Causes of Dry Nose

The most common causes of nasal dryness includes climatic conditions, particularly air conditioned environments, and the side effects of certain medication.

Environmental Conditions

Dry weather, whether hot or cold, typically results in excessive drying of the nasal passages. People living in these conditions may adapt to the dry environment but still experience dryness in extremely dry weather. Air conditioning is another possible cause. Intermittent exposure to air conditioning (like during working hours or only on certain days) may prevent the nasal passages from adapting to the changes in the environment. It is often followed by periods of profuse mucus secretion resulting in a runny nose (rhinitis).

Medication

Dryness of the nasal passages may also arise as s side effect of certain medication like diuretics for high blood pressure (hypertension), some anti-anxiety medication and bronchodilators. A person suffering with chronic nasal congestion and rhinitis may complain of dryness after the use of antihistamines although the moisture of the nasal epithelium may not be extremely dry. Dryness of the nasal passages as a result of medication may ease after discontinuing the causative agent but this should only be considered after consulting with a doctor. Apart from side effects, dryness may also occur with excessive use of nasal decongestants.

Other Causes

  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Cocaine sorting
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca
  • Excessive nasal picking
  • Use of oxygen therapy, supplementation, CPAP machines
  • Swimming (exposure to chlorinated pool water)

Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on December 27, 2010