What Causes Pain in The Nose While Breathing?
Sniffling, sneezing, stuffy, or runny nose—we’ve all experienced nasal congestion and discomfort at some point. But when breathing through your nose causes sharp pain, it signals a problem that needs attention.
Nasal pain ranges from mild aches to severe stabbing sensations. Depending on the cause, the discomfort may strike suddenly and feel like a headache localized in your nose. Or the irritation could come on gradually, worsening over time.
Understanding the potential sources of your nasal pain empowers you to find solutions. Here are some of the most common culprits behind painful breathing and ways to find relief:
Infection and Inflammation
Inflammation swells tissues and narrows nasal passages, making airflow painful. Two prime offenders are:
Your sinus cavities behind the nose and cheeks frequently get infected. Symptoms include facial pain and pressure, headache, congestion, and nasal discharge. Over-the-counter sprays or antibiotics from your doctor combat bacteria causing sinusitis. Meanwhile, saltwater rinses can soothe inflamed tissues.
Environmental allergies trigger hay fever-like symptoms, including nasal congestion. Antihistamines block the allergic reaction and reduce swollen membranes. Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids also decrease inflammation.
Anatomical defects or injuries to the nose can obstruct airways and make breathing uncomfortable, for example:
- Deviated septum – The wall separating the nasal chambers leans to one side.
- Nasal polyps – Teardrop-shaped growths form on sinus cavity linings.
- Broken nose – Blunt force trauma fractures the nasal bones.
Corrective surgery realigns or removes problematic structures to open airways.
Allergy flare-ups aren’t the only way airborne particles cause nasal woes. Cigarette smoke, harsh chemicals, dry air, or atmospheric pollutants may irritate and inflame airways, producing nasal pain when inhaling. For relief, address triggers by:
- Using air filtration systems
- Moisturizing with saline spray
- Wearing an N95 mask outdoors
Medication Side Effects
Certain prescription drugs dry out nasal passages, causing painful breathing. Culprit medications include:
- Blood pressure and heart medications like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics
- Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs
- Isotretinoin acne treatments
- Oxymetazoline decongestant spray overuse
Discuss options like lowering dosages, switching prescriptions, or using nasal moisturizing gels with your doctor. Don’t quit medications abruptly.
Sometimes facial pain results from damaged nerves rather than nasal congestion. Trigeminal neuralgia affects the main facial nerve, producing sharp, jabbing pain with minimal nasal congestion. Neuropathy medications help calm overactive nerves.
When to See a Doctor
Make an appointment with your primary care physician, allergist, or ear/nose/throat specialist if:
- Pain persists over two weeks
- Symptoms worsen rapidly
- You have facial swelling, fever, or purulent discharge indicating infection
- You experience vision changes, severe headaches, or nerve pain
Finding Relief From Nasal Discomfort
While identifying the root cause, try these strategies for easing nasal pain:
- Use saline sprays and nasal hydration gels
- Take anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medicines
- Run a humidifier
- Apply warm compresses over the nose and cheeks
- Drink lots of fluids
- Get extra rest
With several potential sources behind nasal pain, an accurate diagnosis is key for effective treatment. Don’t ignore chronic discomfort—consult a doctor to pinpoint solutions for breathing freely again.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nasal Pain
What does it mean if I have nasal pain on one side?
Having pain or congestion only in one nasal passage often indicates a structural blockage like a deviated septum leaning to that side. Allergies or infections can also unilaterally inflame the nose. See an ENT specialist to identify the cause.
Why does my nose hurt when I bend over?
Bending forward adds pressure and blood flow to the head, which could aggravate inflamed nasal tissues or swollen sinuses, causing pain. This is a common sinus infection symptom.
What kind of doctor treats nose pain?
Otolaryngologists specialize in ear, nose, and throat conditions. They can diagnose and treat causes of nasal obstruction and discomfort. Primary care physicians can also evaluate nasal symptoms and refer you to specialists if needed.
Is nasal pain a sign of COVID-19?
Not usually. COVID most often causes respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath. But some people do experience nasal congestion, runny nose, or headache. Get tested if you have any potential COVID symptoms.
Why does my nose hurt when I press on it?
Pressing on the nasal bones or bridge of your nose causes pain if you have a sinus infection or nasal fracture. If your nose is tender but not visibly bruised or swollen, sinus inflammation is the more likely reason.
- Chronic Sinusitis: Symptoms and Treatment
- Allergy Medications for Nasal Relief
- Home Remedies for Nasal Congestion
- Deviated Septum: Surgery and Non-Surgical Options
- Soothing Dry Nasal Passages