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Nasal vestibulitis, or nasal folliculitis, is a rare type of bacterial infection at the opening of the nose. It may look like a pimple or sore just inside the nose. It often develops when hair follicles become infected, such as after a person picks their nose or plucks their nose hair.
Some cancer treatments may also increase the risk of nasal vestibulitis.
In this article, learn more about the causes of and treatments for nasal vestibulitis, as well as when to see a doctor.
Nasal vestibulitis is an infection in the vestibule, or the entrance of the nose. Staphylococcus aureus bacteria cause most infections.
Although anyone can get this infection, certain risk factors make a person more likely to experience it. These risk factors include:
A weakened immune system: Some conditions, such as diabetes, and certain medications may make the immune system weaker, increasing the risk of infection.
- Nose picking: People who frequently pick their nose may scratch the skin, causing tiny injuries through which bacteria can enter. Nose picking can also introduce bacteria from other areas, such as the mouth or hands, into the nose.
- Plucking nasal hair: Plucking the hair of the nose may irritate the skin and create tiny tears, increasing the risk of infection.
- Frequent nose blowing: This can irritate the nose and cause it to swell. Blowing the nose may also spread bacteria from one area of the nose to another.
- Nose piercings: Nose piercings may provide an opening for infection to enter. Before the infection heals, the body treats it as an open wound, and bacteria may get into the wound.
- Cancer treatment: Chemotherapy weakens the immune system, making a person more vulnerable to certain infections. It may also dry out the nose, causing it to crack open or bleed, allowing infection to enter.
People with nasal vestibulitis may notice a pimple-like growth inside the nose. Sometimes, there are several such growths. Popping or picking these growths can cause the infection to worsen.
Some other symptoms a person might notice include:
- pain in or around the nose
- crusting inside the nose
- dryness in the nose
- unexplained oozing from the skin just inside the nose
Some people with nasal vestibulitis may have a recent history of nose injuries, such as from a nose piercing or due to picking the nose. Others may notice that their nose felt dry or cracked before the infection appeared.
If the infection is severe or spreads to other areas of the body, a person may develop a fever. This is rare, however.
Nasal vestibulitis does not tend to be dangerous, but if a person does not seek treatment for it, the infection may spread. Also, although this is likely extremely rare, researchers have reason to believe that the infection can spread to the skull or the brain.
In most cases, the first-line treatment for nasal vestibulitis will be applying a warm compress to the infected area a few times per day. A doctor might also recommend an antibiotic cream called mupirocin, which can prevent infection from spreading and reduce the risk of it returning.
For more severe infections, a doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic for a person to take over 7–10 days. Many doctors recommend dicloxacillin.
Some people may develop a painful, infected boil called a furuncle. If this occurs, a doctor may recommend surgically removing and draining the furuncle to prevent the infection from returning or spreading. Never attempt to pop a boil at home, as this can increase the risk of infection.
Nasal vestibulitis tends to be a benign condition. However, in rare cases, it can spread to other areas of the body. For this reason, a person should seek prompt treatment. Home remedies alone will not cure the infection.
That being said, one 2018 study found that rose geranium oil might reduce the nasal side effects of some cancer treatments. People undergoing chemotherapy can ask their doctors about using rose geranium oil to reduce the risk of infection. The oil may also help the infection clear more quickly.
However, be sure to wash the hands before use, as applying the oil with dirty hands may spread additional bacteria to the area.
A person can use a number of other strategies to reduce the risk of spreading the infection or getting it again. Try the following:
- Avoid plucking the nose hairs.
- Avoid picking the nose.
- Wash the hands before touching or blowing the nose.
- Only blow the nose as much as is absolutely necessary.
- Ask a doctor about strategies for minimizing nose dryness.
- Seek appropriate treatment for any other medical conditions, such as diabetes.
When to see a doctor
Nasal vestibulitis is highly treatable, especially when a person seeks treatment early. See a doctor if:
- The nose feels sore or itchy, or there is a rash, redness, or a pimple inside the nose.
- The symptoms of nasal vestibulitis do not improve after a few days of taking antibiotics.
- The infection spreads or a person develops a fever after beginning to take antibiotics.
- A person undergoing chemotherapy or taking drugs that weaken the immune system develops a dry, cracked, or sore nose.
Nasal vestibulitis is not normally an emergency. However, if a person with a weak immune system develops a fever, they should go to the emergency room straight away.
Ask a healthcare professional if there are any other symptoms to look out for. For example, chills or fatigue might be a sign that the infection has spread.
An infection at the entrance of the nose can be very painful, especially for someone who has allergies, a dry nose, or a sinus infection.
With prompt medical treatment, the infection can improve in just a few days. Nasal vestibulitis is not a serious condition, but in rare cases, it can cause severe complications if a person does not seek and receive treatment for it.
Do not delay care, as this gives the infection time to spread.