Burning sensation in nose: Causes of burning sensations

At some point in life, almost everyone experiences a burning sensation in their nose. The patient often already has other nasal problems, such as a runny nose, sneezing and a stuffy nose. A burning sensation in the nose usually does not have a serious cause, but is sometimes very troublesome for the patient. It is important to identify the cause, because if this is addressed or treated, the burning sensation in the nose usually disappears. However, the patient should see a doctor if some alarm signs occur, such as breathing problems or changes in vision.

  • Inhaled (inhaled) allergens
  • Irritants in the air
  • Nasal infections, irritation and burning sensation in the nose
  • Nasal sprays and inhaled substances
  • Strong odors and burning sensations in the nose
  • Foreign bodies in the nose
  • Weather and dry air
  • Alarm signals


Inhaled (inhaled) allergens

In patients with an allergic reaction, an abnormal and aggravated immune response to allergens (triggering, harmless substances) occurs. When the nasal passages react hypersensitively to allergens, this is called allergic rhinitis (hay fever). This is seasonal or manifests itself throughout the year. Some common allergens include pollen, spores, dust, dust mites and mold. Avoiding inhaling these allergens is recommended, for example by wearing a mask when gardening or regularly vacuuming the carpets and fabric coverings in the home. If necessary, the doctor may use antihistamine nasal sprays, decongestants (reducing swelling of the nasal mucous membranes), or saline solutions.

Irritants in the air

Smoke, toxic gas and small airborne particles such as sand or coal dust are the most common environmental irritants that can potentially lead to a burning nose. Some irritants in the air can be smelled, such as smoke. Other agents that cause irritation and burning are odorless and may even be invisible. However, the nasal passages still respond by sneezing, causing a runny nose and/or causing a burning sensation in the nose.

Nasal infections, irritation and burning sensation in the nose

An inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes around the nostrils is medically known as rhinitis. The inflammation is then the result of an infection or an allergy, or else it has no other origin. When you have a cold, an infection of the nasal mucosa occurs. Other nasal infections also occur, caused by viruses, bacteria and even fungi. Furthermore, a patient sometimes has non-allergic non-infectious rhinitis (NAINR). This is a form of rhinitis that is neither allergic nor infectious in origin. Many different types of environmental irritants can cause rhinitis, which is accompanied by a burning sensation in the nose, sneezing, and a runny nose. Some strange triggers for rhinitis include spicy foods or hormonal changes in the body. Nasal decongestants, antihistamines and steroid sprays are available to relieve symptoms.

Nasal sprays and inhaled substances

Medicinal nasal sprays can be used to treat all kinds of nasal conditions. Such sprays contain substances such as antihistamines, decongestants (drug to reduce swelling of the nasal mucosa), saline solution and steroids. Using a nasal spray sometimes irritates or dries out the nasal mucosa. For example, the burning sensation occurs shortly after using a nasal spray, but discontinuing a medicated nasal spray can also lead to nasal complaints (rhinitis medicamentosa) with burning. The use of aspirin, ibuprofen and some blood pressure medications also sometimes alters the blood flow through the nasal passages, resulting in a burning sensation. A patient also inhales stimulants such as tobacco and cocaine. The patient should avoid irritants that lead to complaints and discuss with the doctor what other treatment options are possible.The smell of some deodorants causes burns in the nose in a number of patients / Source: SAM Nasim, Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

Strong odors and burning sensations in the nose

Fragrances are chemicals. An odor is the result of evaporated chemicals in the air. Certain odors, even pleasant odors, cause nasal-related symptoms, just like airborne irritants. Sensitive patients respond more quickly and aggressively than other individuals. For example, perfumes, deodorants, air fresheners, detergents and industrial chemicals cause nasal burns in sensitive patients. The stronger the smell, the more intense the burning sensation in the nose. But odorless substances in the air also cause irritation and a burning sensation in the nose.

Foreign bodies in the nose

A foreign object in the nose is a common problem in babies and small children who place an object in the nose while playing. Sometimes the object is so small that it cannot be seen from the outside, but it still causes irritation and a burning sensation in the nose. Usually the burning sensation is the first symptom of a foreign body in the nose. Smaller objects sometimes fall through the back of the nasal cavity, causing choking. Some objects, such as a leaking watch battery that fits easily in the nose, cause extensive damage in the nasal cavity. First aid is sometimes necessary for a foreign object in the nose.

Weather and dry air

The health of the nasal passages also depends on moisture levels. The nasal mucosa should be relatively moist. The mucous membranes produce and secrete mucus, but sometimes the production is not sufficient. Climatic conditions in particular play a role in dried out nostrils. Dry nostrils mainly occur during extreme heat and cold. But indoor temperature control via air conditioning and heating systems also sometimes causes a dry nose. Dry nasal mucous membranes lead to a large number of symptoms such as a burning sensation in the nose, an accumulation of dried and crusty mucus, a runny nose, sneezing and/or a blocked nose. Changes in the weather and dry air also alter the blood supply to the nasal mucosa, causing a burning sensation in the nose. This is known as vasomotor rhinitis. Installing a humidifier in your home is a good idea. Over-the-counter hydrating (humidifying) nasal sprays can also be used to prevent the nasal mucosa from drying out.Medical advice is recommended in case of changes in vision in combination with the burning sensation in the nose / Source: Nufkin, Flickr (CC BY-2.0)

Alarm signals

Most causes of burning sensations in the nose can be treated at home, but if symptoms persist for a week or more, medical advice is recommended. Furthermore, a visit to the doctor is necessary if a burning sensation in the nose occurs in combination with one or more of the following signs:

  • breathing problems
  • dizziness
  • a runny nose with blood
  • a fast heart rate (tachycardia)
  • a constricted throat
  • severe nose pain
  • pass out
  • high fever
  • hives (skin disease with itchy bumps)
  • sudden numbness
  • sudden weakness
  • sudden, severe headache
  • changes in vision
  • changes in speech ability


read more

  • Dry nose: Causes & treatments for dry nose
  • Itchy nose: Causes of itchy nose (tickly nose)
  • Blocked nose (nasal obstruction) due to various conditions
  • Runny nose: Discharge from nose due to swelling and inflammation
  • Burning sensations: Causes and locations of burning sensation

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