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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 19 December, 2002, 00:04 GMT
A cure for runny noses
Baby
A drug can stop a runny nose
A runny nose can be irritating and, if there is no tissue to hand, inconvenient - but scientists know what causes it and how to stop it.

Runny noses can be triggered by colds, eating spicy foods, exercise or even stress.

The biological process behind a runny nose could be linked to the autonomic nervous system, scientists say.

It can be quite an embarrassment

Professor Ron Eccles, Common Cold Centre
This controls involuntary actions such as breathing.

From there, nerves connect to the nasal glands, using a chemical neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, and this leads to a runny nose.

Embarrassing

Doctors can give a drug called ipratropium bromide which blocks the effect of the acetylcholine, and therefore stops noses running.

Professor Ron Eccles of the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff told BBC News Online: "In the early stages of a cold, it can be good.

"But after that, runny noses are due to weeping because of inflammation."

He said a runny nose was not just a minor inconvenience for some people.

"When they are reading, it can be dripping on to their book.

"It can be quite an embarrassment, though that is quite rare."

Two squirts of ipratropium bromide 45 minutes before skiing or eating spicy food will be effective, say US doctors.

Clifford Bassett from the New York University School of Medicine told New Scientist magazine patients were astounded when they used the drug for the first time.

"They say 'Oh my God, I can't believe I've let my nose run for 10 years and didn't do anything about it'."

William Silvers, an allergy specialist from Vail, Colorado, has taken a keen interest in why noses run, and how people cope with the problem.

In 1991, he surveyed skiers in a resort and found 96% complained of a runny nose in winter, and half said the problem was moderate to severe.

See also:

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