What causes a pimple in the nose?
In this article, we look at the most common causes of a pimple inside the nose, and we suggest potential treatments and methods of prevention.
An ingrown hair
A pimple inside the nose may be a sign of infection.
Ingrown hairs can occur anywhere on the body. In the nose, they tend to happen when a person attempts to remove nasal hairs by shaving, waxing, or using tweezers. Fragments of the hair may sometimes grow back into the skin, causing an ingrown hair.
It is common to get a pimple at the site of the ingrown hair. Other signs and symptoms can include:
- irritated skin
Often, an ingrown hair will get better without treatment, but a person should consider seeing a doctor for persistent or severe symptoms. A doctor may recommend using a topical ointment for pain or oral antibiotics for infected pimples.
Home remedies can alleviate symptoms of an ingrown hair. These include using warm compresses to reduce pain and applying tea tree oil, which is a natural antiseptic. Avoid removing additional nose hairs until symptoms resolve.
Nasal vestibulitis is an infection in a nasal vestibule, the front part of the nasal cavity. It typically results from:
- picking the nose
- excessively blowing the nose
- having a nose piercing
The bacteria Staphylococcus (staph) cause the infection, which leads to the formation of red or white bumps inside the nose. The infection also causes:
Other potential causes of nasal vestibulitis include:
- a viral infection, such as herpes simplex
- a persistent runny nose, which can result from allergies
- upper respiratory infections
Mild cases of nasal vestibulitis may get better with a topical antibiotic cream, such as bacitracin. More severe infections, which cause boils, may require both topical and oral antibiotic treatments.
Applying a hot compress several times daily may help drain the boil. On rare occasions, a doctor may need to surgically drain it.
Cellulitis is a potentially serious infection that requires treatment with antibiotics.
Nasal furuncles are boils that occur deep in the nose. This condition is concerning because it may result in cellulitis, a serious skin infection that can enter the bloodstream. Untreated cellulitis can be life-threatening.
Signs of cellulitis include:
- red streaks on the skin
- skin dimpling
Infections that cause cellulitis include:
- Staph bacteria
- Streptococcus bacteria
- methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
Typically, cellulitis requires 10 or more days of oral antibiotic treatment. People should also rest and take pain-relieving medicines if necessary to reduce discomfort.
Lupus, also known as systemic lupus erythematosus, is a long-term autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. Autoimmune means that a person's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues within their body.
The Lupus Foundation of America estimate that at least 1.5 million Americans have lupus. This condition mostly affects women, and people typically develop lupus between the ages of 15 and 44 years old.
Lupus may sometimes cause sores inside the nose that last from a few days to a month. However, most people with the condition will notice other, more severe symptoms that can include:
- muscles aches
- chest pain
- hair loss
- persistent dry eyes
- unexplained fever
- joint pain or swelling
- memory loss
- red rashes, often on the face
- shortness of breath
There is no cure for lupus, but with treatment, most people with the condition live a normal lifespan. Treatments aim to manage symptoms and include:
- antimalarial medications
- immunosuppressive drugs
- biologic therapies
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
When to see a doctor
People should see their doctor if a pimple in the nose gets progressively larger or more painful. They should seek urgent medical attention for any of the following symptoms:
- changes in vision, such as seeing double
- pupils that are different sizes
- red, swollen, and painful rash
Very rarely, an infected pimple in the nose can cause cavernous sinus thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the cavernous sinus vein at the base of the skull. This condition can be a complication of nasal furuncles.
Symptoms of a blood clot in the cavernous sinus include:
- bulging eyes
- difficulty seeing, including double vision
- eye pain
- feeling sleepy
- high fever
- pupils that are different sizes
To diagnose the underlying cause of the pimple, a doctor will ask a person about their symptoms and carry out a visual inspection. For certain types of infection, a doctor may suggest an MRI or CT scan or take a blood sample to help confirm their diagnosis.
Is it safe to pop a pimple?
Popping a pimple, or picking at it, can increase the risk of a bacterial infection. To avoid this, allow the pimple to heal on its own.
If a pimple is causing considerable discomfort, a doctor can drain it safely with minimal risk of infection.
Until a pimple in the nose heals, several home treatments can alleviate the accompanying symptoms. Home remedies for nose pimples include:
Basic hygiene and skin care
A person can limit discomfort by not blowing their nose too hard.
Avoid touching or picking the inside of the nose, as this can increase the risk of a blocked pore or bacterial infection. It can also cause existing pimples to leave a scar.
Do not blow the nose too hard as this can spread any infection and make pain and discomfort worse.
People with nasal vestibulitis should not share towels with others, as this increases the risk of passing on the infection.
Apply a warm, moist compress to the inside of the nose to reduce pain and discomfort. Repeat this treatment up to three times daily, for 20 minutes at a time, until the pimple goes away.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
If a pimple or skin infection in the nose is causing pain, taking an OTC painkiller may help. OTC painkillers include:
- acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- ibuprofen (Advil)
- naproxen sodium (Aleve)
Topical antiseptic ointments and oils may provide relief from pain. A doctor or pharmacist can recommend a suitable OTC remedy.
Alternatively, tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic treatment. Dilute it with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, before applying to the inside of the nose. Do not use undiluted essential oils on the delicate nasal lining.
A person can reduce the risk of developing a pimple in the nose by:
- avoiding picking the nose
- not blowing the nose too vigorously or too often
- washing the hands before and after touching the nose and face
- taking care when removing nose hairs, and always using clean equipment and clean hands
- avoiding or managing stress, as this can lower immunity and slow down healing time
A pimple in the nose can cause pain and discomfort but is often harmless and will go away on its own. However, sometimes, they can be the sign of a more serious health condition.
Causes of a pimple in the nose can include ingrown hairs, infections, and lupus. See a doctor for any pimple that gets progressively larger or more painful or occurs alongside other symptoms.