What Should I Do If My Nose Becomes Dry?

Find which products work best to relieve a dry nose

Woman blowing nose
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatments, including supplemental oxygen, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP), cause side effects including irritation, dryness and cracking of the nose.

COPD Basics

COPD is a progressive disease that makes it difficult for you to breathe. You may wheeze, be short of breath, experience tightness in your chest and more. The leading cause of COPD is cigarette smoking, but chemical fumes, excessive amounts of dust and air pollution can cause it too.

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Adults with severe cases have problems completing routine activities, including walking, gardening, cooking and other essential chores.

For now, there is no cure for COPD. However, there are a few products you may want to have on hand to prevent and relieve nasal dryness, including nasal saline spray, water-based lubricant and an oxygen humidifier. 

Nasal Saline Spray

Nasal saline spray adds moisture to dry nasal passages and assists your nose's natural cleaning system. It's important to keep your nasal passages moist because bacterial infections can develop under the nasal crusts that develop inside dry nostrils.

Nasal saline spray is a great natural option for those wanting an inexpensive over the counter alternative to medication without the risk of side effects. 

You can make your own saline solution and use a bulb syringe or neti pot to irrigate your nasal passages.

Water Based Lubricant

If your nose is dry and irritated, don't discontinue or change your oxygen flow without consulting your physician or respiratory therapist.

Water-based lubricants, such as K-Y jelly, help prevent dryness, irritation and cracking of the nose commonly associated with supplemental oxygen therapy, BiPAP, and CPAP by adding moisture to the affected area. You can also use aloe vera.

Avoid oil-based lubricants, including products with petroleum jelly. It's rare, but inhaling fat-based substances for a prolonged period of time can cause lung problems. There may be no symptoms or you might cough, have chest pain or experience shortness of breath

Oxygen Humidifier

According to Chest, the routine use of humidified oxygen is not justifiable, however, the practice has long been thought to improve comfort for patients wearing a nasal cannula. Aside from the cost of purchasing an oxygen humidifier and the time it takes to manage one, it is generally considered safe to use.

High-flow nasal cannula oxygen therapy (HNFC) consists of an active humidifier, a single heated circuit, an air-oxygen blender and a nasal cannula. It helps patients expel carbon dioxide from anatomical dead space, which can be difficult for COPD patients.

Even so, there is little clinical evidence of its benefits specifically for COPD patients. However, published reports suggest HNFC decreases the energy required for breathing.

Discuss your decision to use an oxygen humidifier with your doctor. It is often a matter of personal preference.

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Article Sources

  • Campbell, et al. Chest: Subjective effects of humidification of oxygen for delivery by nasal cannula. A prospective study. (1988)
  • Mayo Clinic: Petroleum Jelly - Safe for a Dry Nose? (2014)
  • Nishimura, Masaji. Journal of Intensive Care: High-Flow Nasal Cannula Oxygen Therapy In Adults. (2015)
  • University of Maryland Medical Center: Using Oxygen at Home (2012)
  • University of Michigan Health System: Saline Nasal Sprays and Irrigation (2011)