What is a “Winter Nose”?

Dry nose

Our nasal passages are the first point in our respiratory system. All the oxygen that we need for daily consumption goes through the nasal passages, and in return the carbon dioxide is exhaled back. If you do the math, that means a lot of airflow on a constant basis.

In addition to just being a channel for the breathing, the nasal passages provide additional functions to optimize the air. In the summer they cool the air, and in the winter they heat the air before it enters her lungs. They also serve as a filter function to purify the air. Of course, they also humidify the air before it reaches our lungs.

For many people living in colder climates, the winter is specially challenging for the nasal passages. As the nasal passages are the first point of entry for the bitter cold air, they suffer the most from the extreme weather.

Perhaps the biggest factor in our nasal passages suffering in the winter time is the lack of moisture. As temperatures drop, the humidity in the environment drops as well. Indoors, most of us have dry heating elements, which then further dry up the environment around us. Some people have the misconception that if they leave the windows open a bit, moisture can come in from the outside. There really isn’t much moisture outside in the winter anyway.

If the nose falls behind in all these normal maintenance functions, people suffer from dry nose, itchy nose, spotting of blood or even bleeding from the nose. In fact, nosebleeds are much more common in the winter time.

Perhaps the easiest remedy for the winter nose is to keep yourself hydrated. The more water you have in your system, the easier the nose can carry out most of its functions.

There are also several nasal preparations available on the market. Many of these, like Ayr® or Ocean® sprays, are saline solution with no additives. These get the nose wet, but otherwise have no long-lasting effects. NasoGel®, Rhinaris®, and Ponaris® also contain emollients which can have more of a long-lasting effect. Some people can also benefit from using Vaseline ointment applied to the nostrils with the help of a cotton swab.

My biggest recommendation is to get a humidifier for your home. Ideally, you should have it turned on all night in your bedroom. The reason for the recommendation for this timing and location is twofold. First, during the day we often go from room to room, and from indoors to outdoors. We rarely stay in the same exact spot for 7 or 8 hours, except at night when we are in bed for the duration of the night. Second, we usually eat and drink during the day, and can otherwise stay hydrated. As we sleep, we are fasting for the duration, and often wake up very dehydrated. That’s why it is important to leave the humidifier on in the bedroom for the duration of the night.

Your ENT doctor can examine your nose and determine if a deviated septum or any membrane disease is further providing predisposing factors that would make the nose dry. Remedying these conditions can further help the nose maintain its normal hygiene in the winter months.

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Posted in: Nose


Responses:

  1. Hi Doctor,

    Are there any additional considerations or problems with placing a humidifier in a bedroom with a CPAP patient? Thank you!

    Mark A

    Comment by Mark A on January 4, 2017 at 5:24 pm

  2. Most CPAP machines should already be humidified. Leaving a humidifier in a room would be redundant for the person using the CPAP, but useful for others in the same room

    Comment by editor on May 31, 2017 at 11:59 pm

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