Dry sinuses can be uncomfortable and irritating. Allergies, irritants, and some medical conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, can cause dry sinuses. People may find that they can treat or manage this symptom at home.

In this article, we look at the causes and treatment of dry sinuses. We also explain when to see a doctor.

a woman using a nasal spray to treat dry sinusesShare on Pinterest
Over-the-counter nasal sprays may help manage symptoms of dry sinuses.

The sinuses are hollow cavities in the skull that are present around the forehead, cheeks, and nose. A thin layer of mucus lines the sinuses to keep them moist and trap bacteria.

If the body stops producing as much mucus, the sinuses can become dry, leading to a feeling of uncomfortable dryness in the nose and airways. Depending on the cause, people with dry sinuses may also experience nosebleeds or sinus infections.

There are several possible causes of dry sinuses, including those below.

Dry air

The sinuses can usually adapt to a wide range of climates and conditions. However, for some people, dry air may cause or exacerbate dry sinuses. It may cause feelings of discomfort or crusting inside the nose, which can lead to nosebleeds.

According to a review article, older adults may develop dry sinuses more easily than younger adults if indoor air humidity is low. The researchers also suggest that people who breathe through the mouth are more susceptible.

Dehydration

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, dehydration can lead to a dry mouth and dry mucous membranes, as well as other signs of dehydration, including:

  • feeling thirsty
  • headaches
  • dry skin
  • urinating less frequently
  • darker urine
  • fatigue
  • feeling lightheaded or dizzy

Children with dehydration may be listless, produce no tears when they cry, or have sunken cheeks or eyes.

People with mild dehydration can get better by drinking fluids and electrolyte replacement drinks. However, severe dehydration can be a medical emergency.

Irritants

According to the Allergy & Asthma Network, environmental irritants can upset the balance of mucus in the sinuses. The mucus may become thicker than usual, slowing down its flow and making the sinuses dryer.

Irritants that people may come into regular contact with include strong chemicals, intense scents, and smoke. Avoiding triggers for nasal irritation and dryness where possible may help.

Medications

Medications that treat nasal symptoms, such as allergy medication (antihistamines) and decongestants, can dry the sinuses and nose. Immunosuppressants can also exacerbate dry sinuses.

If someone thinks that a medication that they are taking is causing dry sinuses, they should discuss their options with a doctor.

Sjogren’s syndrome

Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition that causes dryness in various parts of the body. It can cause the sinuses to produce less mucus, resulting in sinus problems, such as dry sinuses, nosebleeds, and recurring sinus infections.

Other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome include:

  • dry eyes
  • dry lips, mouth, and throat
  • difficulty swallowing
  • headaches
  • difficulty concentrating
  • respiratory issues
  • gastrointestinal issues
  • joint or muscle pain
  • fatigue

To diagnose Sjogren’s syndrome, a doctor will assess the person’s symptoms. They may measure salivary flow or perform a blood test for antibodies that could indicate this condition.

Sjogren’s syndrome is a long-term condition. However, a combination of lifestyle changes and medication can help people manage their symptoms.

For quick relief from dry sinuses, the Sjögren’s Foundation suggest that people try:

  • using a humidifier to increase the humidity of the surrounding air
  • inhaling steam from showers or baths
  • using over-the-counter nasal sprays, drops, or saline gels
  • staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day
  • avoiding or limiting time in dry environments
  • avoiding nonessential medications that may dry out the sinuses as a side effect
  • limiting exposure to environmental or chemical toxins

When using a humidifier, it is a good idea to clean the device twice a week to prevent bacteria and molds from circulating in the air. A self-sterilizing humidifier cleans the steam before releasing it.

If someone has dry sinuses that do not improve with home treatment, they should see a doctor if possible. Dry sinuses are sometimes due to an underlying condition, which may require medication.

Over time, dry sinuses can lead to a buildup of thick mucus. This buildup prevents the sinuses from clearing away potentially harmful bacteria, which can cause a sinus infection. The symptoms of a sinus infection include:

  • a runny nose
  • green discharge from the nose
  • a blocked nose
  • tenderness or pain in the face
  • headaches toward the front of the head
  • teeth or jaw pain
  • bad breath
  • coughing
  • fever
  • fatigue

If someone has the symptoms of a sinus infection, they should see a doctor. They may need to take antibiotics.

Dry sinuses can be uncomfortable, but people may be able to find symptom relief using simple at-home treatments. Staying hydrated, inhaling steam, and using a humidifier may relieve irritation.

Persistently dry sinuses may indicate an underlying condition, or they may occur as a side effect of a medication. A doctor will be able to diagnose the root cause and recommend medication changes if necessary.