Can Using Supplemental Oxygen Cause a Runny Nose? | myPHteam

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Can Using Supplemental Oxygen Cause a Runny Nose?

Medically reviewed by Steven C. Pugliese, M.D.
Posted on May 1, 2023

Supplemental oxygen helps people with lung diseases and other medical conditions get the oxygen their body needs. In many cases, it’s life-saving therapy, preventing hypoxia (dangerously low oxygen levels). People with pulmonary hypertension (PH) may use supplementary oxygen all the time or occasionally, such as when they have a cold. Unfortunately, wearing a tube or face mask as part of supplemental oxygen therapy isn’t always comfortable — especially when you have a runny nose or dry sinuses.

A few members of myPHteam have mentioned the discomfort of having a dry or runny nose while using supplemental oxygen. “I have had the WORST runny nose for the past couple of weeks while wearing oxygen,” said one member. “It’s not a cold, I don’t have allergies. It’s just this ridiculously runny nose. And the more active I am, the more it runs!”

There are a few reasons why people with supplemental oxygen may have this problem. Fortunately, there are also ways to manage it, once you figure out the cause. Here are the do’s and don’ts of dealing with a runny nose while on oxygen therapy, along with some helpful tips from myPHteam members.

Potential Causes of a Runny Nose

The air you inhale while using oxygen therapy is often dry air, which plays an important role in preventing bacterial growth. However, it can also have a drying effect, which can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal inflammation
  • Dry throat
  • Chapped lips

In addition, bloody noses are a common side effect of supplemental oxygen. If you’ve had frequent nosebleeds, your nose may feel dry as a result.

Medication Side Effects

Some medications used to treat PH can cause runny noses. They include the following:

  • Soluble guanylate cyclase stimulators such as riociguat (Adempas) list nosebleeds as a known side effect.
  • Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors, including Tadalafil (Adcirca) and Sildenafil (Revatio), can cause nasal congestion.
  • Diuretics such as furosemide (Lasix) — prescribed to help with fluid retention — may cause dehydration, which can cause dry skin and dry nasal passages.

On myPHteam, members encourage one another to take medication side effects seriously. “Read the information that comes with each of your medications, and you will find which side effects can come from each medication,” one member advised. “My doctors have been very good about prescribing other medications to ease the side effects. You are not going nuts.”

“These side effects are very real,” the member continued. “There are things to take for the stuffy nose, pain, nausea, sleeplessness, diarrhea, swelling, anxiety, and depression that come from PH and all the side effects. Be sure to list them so you can talk to your doctor about them when you have your appointment.”

Other Unrelated Causes

Sometimes, a dry or runny nose is caused by an unrelated cold or virus. The common cold can be caused by more than 200 different viruses, and exposure can happen anywhere — whether in crowded public places or at small get-togethers with friends. Most adults can expect to get a cold about two to three times per year, but if you visit health care facilities frequently for PH treatment, you may be exposed more often.

Usually, a sore throat is the first symptom of a cold, followed by a runny nose between days four to seven. Swollen lymph nodes and a slight fever are signs that you have caught a cold.

Weather changes and allergies can also cause a runny nose.

Treatment Options for Dry or Runny Nose

Before trying any home remedies for a dry or runny nose, you should make an appointment with your doctor. There’s a lot to consider if you’re using supplemental oxygen, including safety factors to prevent infections and to keep the machine running smoothly and effectively. If you’re sick with a cold or virus, you may need to adjust your oxygen intake and monitor for other symptoms to prevent hypoxia.

One member shared their method for improving communication with their health care team. “I’ve been making a list with a good friend of mine who comes to see me every day. She reminds me of all the things that have been affecting me for a month or more in-between doctor visits,” they shared. “This is an awesome way to remember to talk to your doctor about everything you may have forgotten. I recommend everyone do this to make communication easier with your doctor.”

When speaking with your health provider about your runny nose, you may discuss whether your medications or an unrelated condition are to blame. You may also talk about ways to reduce the symptom if it’s related to oxygen therapy, including adding a humidifier to your machine and using skin creams and saline sprays.

Humidification

Studies show humidification of oxygen therapy can help reduce nasal discomfort. However, it’s important to understand that adding water to the process can increase the chance of contamination. Your health care provider can help weigh the risks and discuss sanitation and ways to prevent infection.

Some myPHteam members have found adding water to the oxygen therapy to be beneficial. “Talk with your doctor and make sure your script for the oxygen machine is written with a humidifier,” advised one myPHteam member. “That way, you will always have a dose of moisture when using it.”

Creams and Sprays

Pharmacists advise people on oxygen therapy to avoid using Vaseline to treat related nose and lip dryness. Instead, they recommend looking for oil-in-water creams or water-based products. “There’s an ointment that doesn’t contain petroleum jelly. It’s more of a cream,” one member shared. “There are also pads you can put on the nasal cannula [an oxygen therapy medical device] to go over your ears.”

Saline sprays and gels can also help. “A few people recommended Ayr nasal spray or gel. I got both, and they both work,” said one member. “It’s still runny when I overdo it on the treadmill. But just for housework, it seems to do the trick.”

Be wary of nasal decongestant sprays, however. They can damage the inside of your nasal passages, leading to worsening symptoms over time.

Ask your doctor for individualized medical advice. They may be able to provide you with free product samples or manufacturer discounts. You can also reach out to your insurance company for any covered treatments.

If you have a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA), you may be able to use these funds for over-the-counter sprays, gels, and creams to help make supplemental oxygen use more comfortable.

Talk With Others Who Understand

On myPHteam — the social network for people with pulmonary hypertension and their loved ones — more than 50,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with pulmonary hypertension.

Have you experienced a runny nose, sneezing, or dryness of the nasal passages with portable oxygen? If so, have you found any good ways to manage it? Post your suggestions in the comments below, or start a conversation on your Activities feed.

Posted on May 1, 2023
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Steven C. Pugliese, M.D. is affiliated with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, serving as the director of the pulmonary embolism response team, co-director of the comprehensive pulmonary embolism program, and an assistant professor of clinical medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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