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Allergies Health Center

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The Rewards of Pampering Your Nose

Runny or irritated nose? Treat it well, and you'll enjoy the smells of baked cookies pain free.

Pampering Your Nose

Saunas and steamy showers might seem like the answer to dry indoor air - and it's true that steamed heat will open up nasal passages. But that's a temporary fix that really doesn't help much. "Once you go into the cold air, they will clamp down, which only causes more nose irritation," Cazabon explains.

Likewise, humidifiers seem like a remedy to relieve dry indoor air. But they don't really help your nose's internal membranes. "It's fine to consider a humidifier if the air is really dry in your home, to make it more comfortable. But to give your skin moisture, you have to put something on it," McDonald adds.

In fact, many doctors don't advise using a portable humidifier at home. "They are prone to developing bacteria and mold, which can be released into the air and cause respiratory problems," Cazabon tells WebMD. "Humidifiers need to be cleaned regularly because of that risk."

A vaporizer, which puts out hot steam, is another option -- although it's best for relieving congestion when you have a cold. However, they are risky because they can burn anyone who overturns or gets too close to them.

Steamy baths, humidifiers, and vaporizers all have their place, says McDonald. "But they won't help your nasal skin. You must apply something to the skin."

The experts' advice:

  • Use saline nasal spray. "It is the best remedy for restoring moisture to mucus membranes," says Cazabon.
  • Minimize exposure to cold air. Wearing a scarf that covers your nose, so that it doesn't get exposed to extremes in temperature changes, can help. "Your breath adds humidity to the air inside the scarf," he adds.
  • Moisturize nasal skin every morning. Use a water-based moisturizer such as Oil of Olay, Neutrogena, or Lubriderm. "Vaseline is too thick for this job, because it closes off the skin and doesn't allow glands to secrete oil. Vaseline is great for lips because lips don't have those issues," says McDonald.
  • Choose a moisturizer that contains sunscreen.
  • Carry a small tube of moisturizer with you during the day to reapply. "This will help keep your nose comfortable all day long," McDonald adds.

Petroleum-based moisturizers like Vaseline are not advised for another reason, says Cazabon. "People who apply a lot to the nose, and wear it overnight, can aspirate it into their lungs, which can lead to problems like an abscess," he tells WebMD. "I don't want to be an alarmist, but you don't want a foreign substance in your lungs. Using a little within reason is fine, but many doctors prefer patients use water-based creams."

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