6 Most Common Causes of Runny Nose in Kids

    Causes of Runny Nose

    Causes of runny nose are the factors that can cause inflammation in your nose. Runny nose occurs when inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane develops. There must be some external factors that affect the nasal mucous membrane. And this effect will be so strong that the nasal mucous membrane won’t be able to function normally and will react to an “external factor” by an inflammatory process.

    What are these external factors?


    So, the most common cause of all colds is viruses.

    The principal and the most significant biological feature of any virus is that viruses can’t reproduce without the help of other organisms’ cells. The virus penetrates into a definite cell, and this very cell turns into a virus manufacturing plant. Consequently, it cannot fulfill its basic purpose. And thus, the very specific symptoms of the disease arise.

    Many viruses love reproducing in the cells of both mucous membranes of the respiratory tract in general and the mucous membrane of the nasal cavity in particular.

    These viruses differ in structure, degree of infectiousness, severity of damaging cells, stability in the external environment, ability to stimulate immunity production, and in a very large number of other factors.

    But since all these viruses affect the same cells, the symptoms of the disease will be very similar, so much similar that in the vast majority of cases it’s just impossible to determine the name of a virus.

    And for such situations, when a group of viruses causes very similar diseases, there are special medical terms that determine a diagnosis. And the most typical one is an Acute Respiratory Viral Infection (ARVI). The diagnosis is very convenient, since both doctors’ and parents’ specific actions, as a rule, do not depend on the name of a particular virus.


    Bacteria are another cause of runny nose.

    Bacteria are significantly different from viruses. First, they are much larger and secondly, they are living organisms that can take care of themselves and propagate when appropriate environmental conditions allow (detection of food, presence or absence of oxygen, suitable temperature). Once got into a human body, some bacteria find the above mentioned conditions in the nasal cavity. This is how a bacterial runny nose develops.

    Bacterial runny nose can be a completely independent disease. Thant is, once got into a nose, a bacteria can feel quite well there resulting in a bacterial rhinitis.

    Another option. A runny nose is caused by viruses, but bacteria constantly living in the nasopharynx start to propagate in a weakened child’s organism. Initially viral, rhinitis became a bacterial one. And this bacterial rhinitis is not an independent disease but a complication of a viral infection.

    It is quite obvious that both viruses and bacteria simultaneously affect the nasal mucous membrane at some specific time interval. And doctors call this “simultaneous impact” a mixed viral-bacterial infection.

    A cold

    A cold can cause a runny nose.

    Everybody knows that when a human body feels cold, this often leads to appearance of diseases.

    A disease associated with hypothermia is called a cold. Everyone thinks that a cold is a special name for any winter snot, coughs, and a sore throat.

    A cold is not a diagnosis, but just an indication of the cause of the disease.

    Hypothermia results in violation of vascular tone. Very often it’s impossible to explain the nature of these violations. It is clear that frozen hands lead to violation of blood circulation in the fingers. But not everyone and not always understands why frozen feet are the cause of a runny nose.

    Medical science explains this phenomenon this way: in the human body there are so-called biologically active or, in other words, reflexogenous zones. And a foot is typical example of such a zone. A frozen foot leads to a stuffy nose; a warm foot leads to restoration of nasal breathing.


    A very common cause of runny nose is allergy.

    Allergy is a condition in which a particular person’s organism unconventionally and too actively reacts to quite ordinary external factors that do not cause similar reactions in other people.

    The mechanism of allergy is quite complicated, but in a very simplistic form it looks like following.

    A substances is a part of food, or contacts with the skin, or is present in the inhaled air. And for some unknown reason the body considers it as a source of danger that encroaches upon the genetic permanence of its internal environment. The main task of immunity is to protect the body, and it regards this substance as an antigen and reacts quite specifically – it produces antibodies. Antibodies remain in the blood afterwards.

    Antigen is any substance that has foreign genetic information. Antibodies are certain cells the body produces to kill (to neutralize) a specific antigen.

    After a while, the contact repeats. And in the blood there are antibodies. When meeting for the next time, both the antigen and the antibody contact with each other, and this contact is the cause of an allergic reaction. An anonymous “certain substance” that can provoke allergy development, is called an allergen.

    An allergen can affect the nasal mucous membrane, and this will lead to allergic rhinitis.

    An injury

    The cause of runny nose may be a trauma.

    We associate the word “trauma” with a real damage, usually a mechanical one (hit, cut, scratch, etc.). According to medical science, trauma is a violation of integrity and function of tissues as a result of external influences.

    Obviously, the nasal mucosa can be damaged as a result of possible various injuries.


    – mechanical trauma – nose-picking, something is stuffed into a nostril, etc.;

    – chemical trauma – you dripped something wrong into your nose (alcohol, vinegar, moonshine, etc.) or water in the pool was too chlorinated;

    – thermal trauma – a result of fire, or mucous membrane is burned after breathing a hot steam.

    And other factors

    Here’s an important and, at first glance, paradoxical circumstance: an ordinary cold is not always a symptom of a disease. The nasal mucous membrane can produce a large amount of mucus, but no inflammation is detected.

    When does this happen? For example, when there is a lot of dust in the air or when the air is too dry. In both cases, additional amount of mucus is produced to protect the nasal cavity from drying out or to neutralize dust particles.

    You should know this for once you notice your child sneezing or sniffing his nose, you should first think about the quality of the air your child is breathing, and only then about a possible disease.

    Problems with the nose may be more “unexpected”. The nose, for example, may not breathe because the child has put a small toy into a nostril; a pimple can appear in a nostril (this is called a “furuncle of the nose”), and other various troubles are also possible.

    This piece does not want to frighten moms and dads. Its task is different – just to draw the parents’ attention to the obvious fact that there are many reasons able to affect the way your kid’s nose works.

    Do you know other causes of runny nose?

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    1. I love this article because as a former preschool director and family child care owner, I have seen a many runny noses. I enjoyed sharing this information on my social media channels.

      • Sorry to read that, Robin. My brother as a child used to suffer from spring allergy every year. And he feels ok now as a grown up. Hope it’s just a childhood, and later your kids’ health will be fine. God bless you!

    2. I am pretty sure the cause of my son’s runny nose is he thinks it’s funny to make me wipe it off all day. 🙂 How do you usually tell if it’s a cold or allergies?

      • Hahaha, your son is a very funny boy! And symptoms of allergies are red running eyes, itching in the nose, and a person can sneeze for 10-20 times at a time. My brother had allergies every time ambrosia started blossoming. And he recovered once he moved to a city where there wasn’t ambrosia at all. May your son be always healthy!

    3. I can definitely relate to the allergy stuff! Another cause of runny nose (which I have personal experience with) is silent reflux. It’s like heartburn, but it doesn’t burn. Sometimes it allows acid from the stomach to move all the way up into the back of throat, which causes a post-nasal drip – the body’s effort to wash the acid away.

    4. This is a really good guide for a first time Mom or Dad. My kids have allergies so I try to keep tissues on me at all time for just that.

    5. I don’t have a kid but this post has been really informative. I have always attributed running nose to colds, didn’t know that allergies could also cause running nose. If we adults get irritable when we have a running nose, I bet it’s even more difficult for kids.

      • I agree with you. Runny nose bothers them much. But we adults know how to help us, and kids don’t, we need to teach them. Oh, allergies cause not only runny noses but also red running eyes and itching noses as well. Thanks for your thoughts 😉

    6. My son often gets a runny nose from allergies. Right now, he has a really runny nose because on top of allergies, he has a cold. One of the bad things with a runny nose is the constant wiping/blowing can lead to redness, soreness, and chafing. Do you have any suggestions to help with that side effect of a runny nose?

      • Kelly, it’s difficult to recommend something in your case. Try to eliminate the source of allergy, boost your son’s immunity, and if posible, visit not one but different doctors to get an objective opinion and choose the right way to help your son. May your son be always healthy! 🙂

    7. The usual reason if my niece got a runny nose is because of the virus. It’s almost every month but good thing she is still a happy baby even when sick.

      • That’s wonderful! 😉 And I’d also recommend you not just to treat viruses, but also to pay attention to her immunity and boost it a bit! May your niece stay always happy and healthy! 🙂

    8. Not every runny nose is due to a cold. This is really informative. I have allergies, If I smell perfume or cigarette smoke, my nose becomes so itchy and it’s annoying.

    9. I would have never thought of trauma leading to a runny nose. But I suppose if your body is reacting to the intensity of the situation, it may over produce mucus as a result and lead to a runny nose. Thanks for all of the information here.

      • Thank you, David, too! I agree with you. In such a situation the body tries to eliminate the inconvenience by producing more mucus to “wash it out”.

    10. I will have to print this list. My kids have runny noses all the time and I never know what the reason is.

    11. It’s tough when it’s the kids who are experiencing this. I think it’s important to figure out the source as soon as possible so that you know that to do. Runny nose can be such a headache!