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What Causes a Swollen Nostril?

Patti Kate
Patti Kate

A few things might cause a swollen nostril, including seasonal allergies and sinusitis. A swollen nostril may also occur when hair follicles become infected with bacteria. This type of infection is known as folliculitis. Lack of humidity leading to dry mucus membranes may also cause nostrils to become swollen and inflamed. Although it is considered to be uncommon, cancer that has metastasized to the nasal cavity may cause a nostril to swell.

In some cases, an injury or a blow to the nose may result in a swollen nostril or nostrils. This would occur as nasal membranes rupture, causing bleeding into the nasal cavity. Swelling in the nostrils may occur as a result of the pressure from the bleeding and torn membranes. Individuals suffering a broken nose will often experience painful swelling outside of the nose, as well as the nostrils.

Surgery on the nasal structure may also cause post-operative nostril swelling. This may include open or closed surgical procedures. Rhinoplasty, which is a type of cosmetic surgery commonly referred to as a nose job, may sometimes cause swelling.

Sinusitis may cause swollen nostrils.
Sinusitis may cause swollen nostrils.

Some individuals who have nasal polyps may experience nostril swelling. When the lining of the nose becomes inflamed, either from infection or injury, polyps may occur. A polyp is a small lump of fibrous tissue that may bleed. Nasal polyps have been known to cause swelling inside of the nostril, occasional pain, and difficulty in breathing. Treatment for nasal polyps may include medication, or, in some cases, surgery.

Cocaine abuse is another cause of swollen nostrils. This occurs when the individual inhales the drug in powered form. Over a period of time, cocaine may cause damage to the nasal tissue and membranes, leading to bleeding, inflammation, and swelling.

Swollen nostrils may occur following nasal surgery.
Swollen nostrils may occur following nasal surgery.

Allergic rhinitis is another word for nasal allergies, which may cause sneezing, runny, or stuffy nose and inflamed or swollen nostrils. These allergies are often seasonal, with symptoms appearing at certain times throughout the year, or when pollen count is especially high. Individuals may also be allergic to dust mites or pet dander, both of which may cause symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and swelling in the nostrils.

Seasonal allergies may cause a swollen nostril.
Seasonal allergies may cause a swollen nostril.

Rhinophyma is a condition sometimes referred to as rosacea of the nose. This often causes severe redness on the outside area of the nose. Rhinophyma may also cause inflammation and swelling of the nostrils. A dermatologist can diagnose this condition and prescribe the most effective treatment for associated symptoms.

Discussion Comments


My left inner nostril is swollen and is painful. It just started two days ago. I have never had this before. What can I do to get the swelling down?


Folluculitis is *not* "just a fancy name for pimple inside the nostril." It means there is an ingrown hair, hence follicle-itis!


I keep getting pimples in my nose! I don't even have to pop them because in a day or so, they erupt on their own, leaving a hard crusty material and the lump, the big painful lump, does not go away for a week. Then, it starts up again!

Both sides are affected, either one at a time, or together. This never happened before the last couple of months. Now, it's getting worse. It's not folliculitis (or and ingrown hair) but my doctor thinks it could be a mild staph infection, and is prescribing Bacitracin. I hope it works! These things hurt!


What will reduce swollen nasal passages and decrease this unbearable burning as soon as possible?


Having rosacea on your nose is terrible and can be really sore if it is left untreated. I used to think I just had discolored skin on my nose but when my nostril started to swell I headed to the doctor.

My doctor referred me to a dermatologist for treatment and apparently having a swollen nostril from rhinophyma is fairly common. I was surprised to learn this as I always thought the symptoms of rosacea were completely external and more of a cosmetic concern than anything else.

Luckily, the dermatologist was able to give me medication that fixed my red nose and it also took down the swelling.


I have terrible allergies in the spring and I always get a swollen nostril out of the ordeal. It is usually pretty painful and I find it makes it hard to breathe.

My doctor recommended, that besides my usual dosage of allergy medication that I breathe in steam and if the swelling is quite bad, I can use an ice cube wrapped in a wash cloth to hold against my nose for some relief.

I have found the steam works wonders for clearing out my nasal passages and I usually just fill the sink with steaming water and put a towel over my head so I can breathe it all in. As a bonus the steam also makes my pores look better, almost like a spa facial.


@Monika - Though your description of folliculitis is kind of gross hopefully your hint about the hot compress will help someone.

My last experience with a swollen nostril wasn't my own. One of my friends had a rhinoplasty awhile back and her entire nose was swollen. I felt extra bad for her because the rhinoplasty was out of necessity, not vanity. She suffered a deviated septum in an accident and the nose job was essential to fix it.


Folliculitis is basically a fancy name for a pimple inside your nostril. I've actually had this happen to me several times and it is very uncomfortable.

The good news is that this unfortunate condition will usually clear up on its own much like a regular pimple. To hasten the process along I use a hot compress. You can soak a washcloth in hot water, wring it out, and then hold it on the side of the affected nostril. This will relieve some of the pressure.

I wouldn't recommend trying to pop your folliculitis though because this can make the infection worse.

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    • Sinusitis may cause swollen nostrils.
      By: aceshot
      Sinusitis may cause swollen nostrils.
    • Swollen nostrils may occur following nasal surgery.
      By: pressmaster
      Swollen nostrils may occur following nasal surgery.
    • Seasonal allergies may cause a swollen nostril.
      By: ajkkafe
      Seasonal allergies may cause a swollen nostril.
    • Everything from an injury to cocaine abuse can cause a nostril to swell.
      By: rufar
      Everything from an injury to cocaine abuse can cause a nostril to swell.
    • Cocaine abuse can cause swollen nostrils.
      By: HamsterMan
      Cocaine abuse can cause swollen nostrils.