Fortunately, scabs inside the nose are usually harmless and heal on their own with a little care.
Knowing the cause of scabs in the nose and how to care for them is key to helping the nose heal and to preventing future problems.
Home remedies for scabs in the nose
A Neti pot uses a solution of saline and water to clear the nose of congestion.
For scabs caused by minor problems, such as allergies and colds, a person can try:
- Diffusing essential oils of eucalyptus and peppermint to relieve nasal congestion.
- Using a Neti pot to clear the nose of mucus and allergens.
- Doing a steam treatment at home by boiling a pot of clean water, letting it cool slightly, placing a towel over the head to capture the steam, and breathing the steam in through the nose.
- Drinking plenty of water and non-caffeinated liquids to help the body naturally flush mucus out of the nose.
- Applying a warm, wet washcloth over the nose several times a day.
- Using saline nasal spray as needed to help with pain and encourage the scab to heal.
Causes of scabs in the nose
Scabs in the nose can be caused by a variety of factors, but most are simple issues that heal without complications. Common causes include:
Allergens can cause the inside of the nose to feel itchy, which can lead to rubbing or scratching the nose. This may cause damage to the tissues inside.
This may cause inflammation, bleeding, and the formation of a scab. Even without rubbing or scratching, the ongoing inflammation from allergies can be irritating enough to cause scabs to form.
Certain chemicals can irritate the nose, causing inflammation and scabbing. Common irritants include:
- fumes from cleaning products
- industrial chemicals
- cigarette smoke
Blowing the nose too hard
Blowing the nose is often necessary and helpful. However, blowing too hard can do more harm than good.
Forceful blowing of the nose can not only force the mucus back further into the sinuses, but it can also damage and irritate the inside of the nose.
People who blow their nose too hard and too frequently may notice bleeding and scabbing inside the nose. Repeated forceful blowing can rip the scab off, leading to more bleeding and repeated scabbing.
Trauma or nose-picking
An injury to the nose in an accident or sports can damage the tissue inside, leading to bleeding and scabbing.
Similarly, nose-picking can damage the inside of the nose. Children and adults alike may be guilty of this habit, especially when a cold or allergies lead to a mucus buildup in the nose.
Rhinotillexomania is the medical term for chronic nose-picking. In chronic or compulsive nose-picking, scab formation may prompt the person to blow out or pick the scab, causing more bleeding, scabbing, and an ongoing cycle that does not allow the nose to heal.
Overuse of nasal sprays
Overusing nasal spray may irritate the inner lining of the nose, causing scabs to develop.
Some nasal sprays contain a drug known as oxymetazoline, which is designed to shrink the blood vessels in the nose, helping it to feel less congested.
Although it can help the nose feel better initially, using these sprays too often can lead to dryness, irritation, and increased congestion in the nose.
All of these factors increase the risk of scabs inside the nose.
Cold sores (herpes simplex virus)
Although cold sores are most common around the mouth, they can appear in other places, including inside the nose.
Cold sores result from an infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). A cold sore usually starts with a burning and tingling feeling, followed by a sore that scabs over and forms a crust.
Pimples or boils
The inside of the nose contains hair follicles that can become infected with bacteria. As a result, a pus-filled boil or pimple may develop.
Boils and pimples can cause pain and irritation. If they are scratched or popped, bleeding and scabbing may result.
Inhaling drugs, such as methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin, can do significant damage to the inside of the nose.
Irritation and scabbing in the nose are common with the use of these drugs. They can also tear, or perforate, the septum inside the nose, leading to serious complications, such as necrosis (tissue death) and holes in the nose.
Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer
Cancer in the nasal cavity, or paranasal cancer, can cause a range of symptoms, including ongoing congestion and nosebleeds. This can lead to irritation and scabbing.
Other symptoms of paranasal cancer include changes in a person's sense of smell, numbness or pain in the face, and changes in vision.
Scabs in the nose and congestion are usually not signs of cancer. If a person is concerned, a doctor can rule out this cause with any needed testing or exams.
A person with scabs in their nose should avoid blowing the nose too hard or too often.
A number of steps can be taken to help prevent scabs in the nose, including:
- Taking allergy medications as recommended by a doctor.
- Blowing the nose gently and only when necessary. If no mucus comes out when blowing, a person should not force it or blow harder, but instead, they should moisten the nasal passages with a saline spray.
- Avoiding inhaling drugs, including illegal drugs.
- Asking a doctor before using a decongestant nasal spray containing oxymetazoline. If recommended, it should not be used more than twice a day or for longer than 3 days.
- Using a humidifier.
- Keeping drug-free saline spray on hand to keep the inside of the nose moist. A person should look for sprays that contain only "sodium chloride" as the active ingredient.
- Not putting fingers or other objects in the nose.
- Dabbing petroleum jelly inside the nose helps keep moisture in, preventing the nasal tissues from drying out and bleeding.
- Avoiding picking at scabs or bumps inside the nose.
- Not smoking and avoiding places where others smoke.
- Avoiding strong chemical smells from harsh cleaning products whenever possible.
- Wearing a face mask that covers the nose when dealing with chemicals.
- Taking medications to prevent cold sores.
When to see a doctor
Although scabs in the nose often result from minor, harmless conditions, such as seasonal allergies, a health professional should examine ongoing scabs or discomfort in the nose.
Usually, a family doctor, an allergist, or an ear, nose, and throat doctor (otolaryngologist) can examine the inside of the nose with a light and recommend further testing or treatment if needed.
Blood tests may be required if herpes or a bacterial infection is suspected. In many cases, however, scabs due to allergies and trauma can be diagnosed with a visual exam.
Usually, the cause of scabs in the nose is easily treatable with home remedies and time.