How to Pamper Your Allergic Nose

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 07, 2017
3 min read

Is your sniffer working overtime because of a cold or allergies? It can turn red and sore when you use a whole box of tissues.

Use these expert tricks to soothe a chapped, sore nose fast.

You may think pre-moistened wipes are gentler than plain-old tissue, but many diaper wipes or those made for removing makeup contain fragrance, detergents, or other chemicals that may further irritate cracked, dry skin, says Neil Schachter, MD, author of The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds & Flu .

Use soft tissue or toilet paper instead. Those with aloe may feel especially gentle.

When you do blow your nose, pat your nostrils and the skin around your nose dry instead of rubbing or wiping, says New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD.

When you pat, you get less friction and skin irritation than if you rub. That saves you some pain later.

Several times a day -- after every blow, even -- dab a small amount of a gentle petrolatum-based product around your nostrils and onto any irritated patches of skin around your nose.

“Ointments are more helpful than creams or lotions, because they form a waterproof seal that lets the skin underneath heal itself,” Zeichner says.

If you have deep skin cracks around the nose that don’t seem to heal, or if they become covered with a yellowish or honey-colored crust, you may have a skin infection.

If you think that’s the case, call your doctor, who might recommend an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment.

Rinse your nasal passages with a gentle saline (salt water) solution twice a day, morning and night, Schachter says. This will ease your congestion and rinse mucus out of your nasal passages without you having to blow your nose.

“Anything that can lower skin friction will keep the nose in better shape,” Zeichner says. (And remember, pat dry afterward -- don’t wipe.)

If you’re super stuffed up during the day, you can add a third nasal wash around midday, Schachter says.

Although instructions are different for nasal-wash squeeze bottles and neti pots, you can try this general recipe and how-to:

Mix about 16 ounces of lukewarm water (distilled, sterile, or water that you’ve boiled and let cool) with 1 teaspoon of salt. Some people add half a teaspoon of baking soda to buffer the solution and make it gentler on the nose, but that’s not proven to help.

Fill a neti pot or bulb syringe with the solution.

Tilt your head down and to the left over a sink while you empty about half the salt water into your right nostril, letting the water come out the other nostril. Switch sides. Breathe normally through your mouth. Be sure to clean out your neti pot thoroughly after you use it.

They can help treat a runny nose, so you don’t have to blow it as often. But these pills and sprays can also make the sensitive skin inside your nose feel worse.

“They tighten up blood vessels and lower blood flow to the area, both of which can cause discomfort and irritation,” Schachter says. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons and what’s OK for you.

The steam that rises from a hot bowl of soup or a cup of tea moisturizes your skin and nasal passages. It can even help loosen up mucus deeper in your nose so that you can more easily blow it out, Schachter says.

Show Sources


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: “Saline Sinus Rinse Recipe.”

Medscape Drugs and Diseases: “Neosporin Original Ointment, Triple Antibiotic Ointment.”

Medscape Medical News: “Use of Saline Nasal Irrigation Reviewed.”

National Health Service (UK): “Decongestant Medication - side effects.”

E. Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York; author, The Good Doctor’s Guide to Colds & Flu, Harper Paperbacks, 2005.

Joshua Zeichner, MD, dermatologist; assistant professor in the dermatology department at Mt Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan.

View privacy policy, copyright and trust info