Why does my nose burn when I breathe? How to stop it?

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key Takeaways

  • Burning sensation in the nose can be caused by factors like allergic rhinitis, nonallergic rhinitis, sinusitis, cold, influenza, and respiratory infections.
  • Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is a common cause. Treatments include avoiding allergens, using over-the-counter medicines, and considering immunotherapy.
  • Sinusitis, inflammation of the sinuses, can also cause a burning sensation. Treatments include antibiotics, decongestants, and home remedies. Seek medical advice if symptoms persist or worsen.

Overview

We enjoy all sorts of tastes with our sense of smell. If it is affected, all other senses are affected. Moreover, it filters out all the harmful substances like dust, chemicals, and microorganisms while we inhale and exhale. This natural defense mechanism, when compromised, can allow entry to various toxic substances. Therefore, finding the culprit that affects our noses is crucial. If you feel a burning sensation while breathing, chances are it’s either an infection, allergies like sinusitis, or hay fever. Let’s explore all the possible causes that can cause it. In any case, if you have long-term uncomfortable symptoms, you should get a consultation from a doctor.

What causes a burning sensation in your nose?

Burning of the nose also depends on the time of the year. It is more common during dry weather or allergy season. Here are some of the leading causes of a burning sensation in your nose:

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Allergic rhinitis

Any allergy is caused when the person’s immune system fights against their cells due to triggering factors like dust, pollen, chemicals, etc. This trigger is called an allergen, which varies among the individuals. As a result of the immune system backfiring, inflammation occurs inside the nose, which causes a burning sensation. Allergic rhinitis affects 10-20% of the population annually, as per 2018 research stats. Allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever and includes the following symptoms other than a burning sensation in the nose: 

  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Post nasal drip
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itch or burning in nose, eyes, throat

Treatment

  • Avoid the Allergen: Avoid exposure if you know which allergen triggers the allergy. If you don’t know, ask your doctor to run an allergy test for the correct diagnosis. 
  • Over-the-counter Medicines: Additionally, if exposure cannot be minimized, like during allergy season, some over-the-counter options can help you get through that duration and ease your symptoms, antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids.
  • Immunotherapy: You can also go for immunotherapy to settle down the allergic reaction once and for all, which acts like a vaccine. In immunotherapy, you are exposed to tiny amounts of the allergen enough to make you immune to it and insufficient sufficient to trigger an allergic reaction. Immunotherapy is done in different forms, from injections to oral forms, where placing the tablet below your tongue works instead of receiving daily injections for a set amount of time. 

Nonallergic rhinitis

It is also the inflammation of the nose. However, the cause is not an allergic reaction but a person’s sensitivity towards certain things that can trigger it, like air pollution, certain chemicals, or fragrances. This sensitivity can be caused by certain health conditions or medication. There is no specific timeline or duration. This type of sensitivity stays year long. The following are the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis:

  • Burning of nose
  • Sneezing
  • Post nasal drip
  • Stuffy nose
  • It doesn’t cause itching 

Treatment

  • Since it lasts a year, the only solution is avoiding exposure. 
  • Other options include rinsing the nose with saline nasal sprays to reduce inflammation.  

Sinusitis

The empty spaces behind the forehead and cheeks surrounding the nasal cavity are called sinuses. Sinus inflammation is called sinusitis. It can occur as a result of a bacterial or viral infection. Sinusitis can be diagnosed if a burning sensation accompanies other symptoms like: 

  • Fever and cough
  • Post nasal drip 
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose or stuffy nose
  • Pain in cheeks or forehead
  • Dizziness

Treatment

  • Sinusitis can be treated using antibiotics in case of a bacterial infection or on its own in case of a viral infection. If you experience similar symptoms, consult with a doctor immediately.
  • Your doctor may also recommend decongestants to ease the symptoms. 
  • Otherwise, some home remedies can also help get some relief, like applying a warm compress, using saline nasal wash, drinking plenty of fluids, and sleeping with your head elevated.

Cold

According to CDC stats, there are different viruses responsible for the common cold, which attacks a person at least 2-3 times annually. The viruses that cause colds include rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus, and seasonal coronavirus. The cold virus also serves to infect and inflame the nasal cavity and cause a burning sensation along with other symptoms like: 

  • Fever
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Head and body aches
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes

Treatment

  • Although we all are immune to viral colds, no specific treatment exists. However, the symptoms can be relieved using over-the-counter medicines for the body and headaches and decongestants to relieve runny or stuffy nose. 
  • Otherwise, some herbal drinks can also ease the symptoms. 

Changes to climate

A burning nose sensation can also occur due to dry weather as the lack of humidity will leave the airways dried, which can cause nose burning upon breathing. During dry weather, long exposures to air conditioners can also suck the remaining moisture and further dry out the nasal mucosa, which can cause a burning sensation in the nose. 

Treatment

Keep a bowl of water in your bedroom to restore air moisture and fight dry weather conditions. Moreover, drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated and drying of nasal airways. Another solution is to use a 0.9% saline solution for rinsing your nostrils. 

Influenza

The common flu is caused by the influenza virus, which infects and inflames the respiratory tract. It can also cause a burning sensation in the nose, fatigue, body and headaches, sore throat, runny nose and sneezing, and fever. Sometimes it can also cause diarrhea and vomiting. People over 65, children under five, and pregnant women are more prone to attack by this virus and, therefore, lie in the high-risk group. 

Treatment

  • Influenza, just like other viral infections, goes away on its own. Antivirals can help ease the symptoms and reduce the recovery time by one day. 
  • Otherwise, certain herbal teas can also help ease the symptoms and clear the post-nasal drip. 

Other respiratory infections

A respiratory infection can cause nose burning and affect the throat, lungs, and nose. One such example is COVID-19, also called SARS-CoV2. Its symptoms include a burning sensation in the nose, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste and smell, headache and body aches, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. 

Treatment

  • Respiratory infections are treated based on the cause. 
  • If a bacteria causes respiratory infection, then your provider will prescribe potential antibiotics after diagnosing the causal agent.
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Home Remedies

These remedies can ease the symptoms but don’t cure allergic reactions or infections. Here are the following home remedies that can help alleviate nose burning and other associated symptoms:

  • Respiratory infections or allergic reactions can leave you dehydrated. Therefore, drink a lot of fluids and clear liquids like fruit juices and water to help dilute mucous and increase drainage. 
  • Take steam to clear congestion and ease a stuffy nose
  • Use a humidifier to fulfill air moisture
  • Take rest to help the body recover itself
  • Use nasal wash or saline sprays to reduce inflammation

When to Consult a Doctor

Recurrent infection, pain in the nasal cavity, and persistent symptoms for over ten days indicate chronic illness. Therefore, immediately seek medical advice if you develop any of such symptoms. It’s either due to an allergic reaction or a chronic infection like sinusitis.

FAQs About Nose Burning

What is the #1 symptom of COVID-19?

The most prominent COVID-19 symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, and fever.

What does nasal vestibulitis feel like?

Nasal vestibulitis is the swelling of the nose that accompanies pain as well. It also causes dryness and crusting in your nose.

When should I be concerned about nose pain?

If the symptoms of nose pain persist over ten days, it can be due to worsening sinusitis. It happens in reinfection cases when the symptoms improve and worsen a few days later. If nose pain accompanies a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, immediately consult your doctor.

What feels like a sinus infection but isn’t?

Sinus infection symptoms are often similar to a nasal, cold, or upper respiratory tract infection. Therefore, it can be confused with sinusitis due to similar symptoms to migraine.

How long does sinusitis last?

Sinus infection, if acute, goes away in 10 days. However, if you are suffering from chronic infection, it can take over eight weeks and often feels like reinfection.

Why does my nose hurt on one side?

One side of the nose can be painful in sinus infections or allergic reactions. In rare cases, it can also indicate a tumor, trauma, or deviated septum; therefore, seek medical advice for a proper diagnosis.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Raad RA, Ganti A, Goshtasbi K, Lehrich BM, Papagiannopoulos P, LoSavio P, Mahdavinia M, Kuan EC, Batra PS, Tajudeen BA. Temporal patterns of nasal symptoms in patients with mild severity SARS-CoV-2 infection. Am J Otolaryngol. 2021 Nov-Dec;42(6):103076. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2021.103076. Epub 2021 Apr 24. PMID: 33915513; PMCID: PMC8064817.
  • Sebastian SK, Kumar VB, Gupta M, Sharma Y. Covid Assossiated Invasive Fungal Sinusitis. Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2022 Oct;74(Suppl 2):2883-2886. doi: 10.1007/s12070-021-02471-6. Epub 2021 Feb 25. PMID: 33649716; PMCID: PMC7905418.
  • Mayo Clinic. Nasal Congestion
  • Cleveland Clinic. How Dry Winter Air Can Cause Respiratory Problems— From Bronchitis to Nosebleeds
  • American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Sinus Infection
  • Family Doctor.org. Allergic Rhinitis (Allergies)

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