Is Petroleum Jelly Safe for a Dry Nose?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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hand of a male person holds a container with Vaseline or petroleum jelly

Many people know petroleum jelly as Vaseline. But many popular products used to treat cold symptoms, such as Vicks VapoRub, also contain petroleum jelly. The uses of petroleum jelly are numerous, but treating the inside of your dry nose isn’t one of them. Even though petroleum jelly may temporarily relieve dry nose symptoms, it is meant for external use only. Learn why petroleum jelly isn’t safe for inside your nostrils and alternative ways to treat your dry nose.

Effects of Petroleum Jelly in the Nose

When petroleum jelly is used inside the nose, small amounts are inhaled. Breathing in this jelly—one type of a fatty substance called a lipoid—over prolonged periods can cause buildup in the lungs and result in severe lung problems. After months of daily use, some people have developed exogenous lipoid pneumonia, a rare condition that causes serious inflammation in the lungs. Some people don’t have any symptoms, but others may have symptoms such as:

A diagnosis of exogenous lipoid pneumonia may be difficult to make because symptoms can be confused with other lung conditions, and chest X-rays may show what appears to be carcinoma or other diseases.

Best Home Remedies to Treat a Dry Nose

While petroleum jelly isn’t a good treatment for a dry nose, it is important keep your sinuses moist through dry winter months. When mucus dries out, it’s unable to trap viruses and bacteria before they enter your lungs. Therefore, breathing dry air can lead to many kinds of illnesses, including bronchitis, sinusitis and the common cold, and it can contribute to nosebleeds and even dehydration.

To help prevent illness and get some relief from a dry nose, try some alternatives to petroleum jelly. There are many options to help relieve the discomfort of a dry, crusty nose. You might find that a combination of treatments works best for you. Some treatments for dry nose include:

  • Steam inhalation: Breathing in warm, humid air will help moisten your sinus passageways. Try sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower running or breathing in the steam from a bowl of hot water.
  • Humidifier or vaporizer: Cold air doesn’t hold as much moisture as warm air. Using a humidifier or vaporizer during cold winter months will put some moisture back into a room’s dry air. The difference between the two devices is that a vaporizer boils water and then releases steam into the air, and a humidifier releases a cool, ultra-fine mist into the room. A warm-mist humidifier works similarly to a vaporizer. It’s best to use a cool-mist humidifier in a child’s room to prevent accidental burns.
  • Saline spray or neti pot: Nasal irrigation with a saline solution will also moisten your sinuses. Try gently spraying the saline solution from a bottle into your nostrils, or flush out germs and irritants from your nasal passages using a high-volume neti pot.
  • Drink more water: Hydrate your entire body by drinking plenty of water, particularly during winter’s dry months.

Petroleum jelly isn’t bad for you as long as you use it externally, rather than inside your nose. And while using it inside your nostrils once or twice probably won’t cause any problems, long-term use in your nose increases your risk of serious lung problems. Instead, consider other ways to moisten your sinus passageways.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Mar 27
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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