Finally, There's An Answer To Why Your Nose Gets Snotty From Allergies

by Emily Arata
Paramount Pictures

Allergies are a real pain.

When you come into work with the flu, people ask you how you're feeling. Just recovered from food poisoning? A kind co-worker will probably buy an extra coffee for you. But if you sit down at your desk with a cherry-red nose and audible sniffles, you might as well bring the bubonic plague to work.

Whether it's allergies or a cold that made you a sneezing, snotty mess, no one wants to be near patient zero.

Did you want to wear your contacts today without feeling like you're stabbing diamond shards into your eyes? Fat chance. The same goes for working out because you'll probably get a half a lungful of air before beginning to sneeze.

The good news is, you're not the only one who's disgusting the people around you with hay fever. About 50 million people in the US alone fight nasal allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and that number is increasing.

If you're a curious person, you've probably wondered: Why all the snot during allergy season? It seems counterintuitive that the body would willfully produce mucus to block your throat and nostrils, especially when breathing is already a challenge. This is where the good people of Reddit come in.

On a thread in the popular subreddit Explain Like I'm 5, a curious Redditor wondered about the exact same issue and finally got an answer.


In everyday life, your body produces mucus in the nose to get rid of all the ick of daily life, including dirt and grime. It's usually thin and clear, unnoticeable in normal life. When allergies occur, however, so does a condition called rhinitis -- inflammation of the nose. In an attempt to flush out the allergens upsetting your body, that mucus thickens and starts gushing.

Think of it like your reaction to finding a bug sitting on your left knee. You don't just whack the bug, you panic and slap everything in sight, maybe even jumping up and down just in case. It's a knee-jerk reaction to getting rid of the creepy-crawly.

Just like this, your body overdoes it on the mucus. Instead of quietly draining down your throat, the mucus builds up and clogs your breathing (you can actually die from too much mucus, but it's rare). Consider it a juice cleanse for your body, without any of the juice.

The next time your nose is snotty, just think of it as the body doing some spring cleaning.

Citations: ELI5: Why does our body react to being sick or having allergies by blocking up our main means of breathing? (Reddit)