What It Means When Your Nose Stings Right Before Crying

Crying doesn't feel very good, despite it being called cathartic by some. Your eyes fill with tears that often end up streaming down your face, your nose gets all clogged up, and you might even get a headache from additional pressure in your sinuses. 

But have you ever paid attention to the sensations that come on right before you start crying? If you're one of those people whose nose stings before they begin shedding some tears, there's a possible theory for this, courtesy of a third-year ENT resident who goes by the name Chris P. on TikTok. It might have to do with the nerve system called the greater superficial petrosal nerve (GSPN), which is connected to your tear ducts and your mucous membrane, or nasal mucosa.

"[This nerve] carries parasympathetic fibers to both our lacrimal system (the glands, sacs, and ducts around your eyes) as well as our nasal mucosa. The autonomic nervous system, which controls a lot of our involuntary responses to things, carries those fibers to both the tear duct system as well as our nasal mucosa," shared Chris P. When you cry and your parasympathetic nervous system is firing, this can activate both areas — the tear ducts and your nose, he added. This might be why your nose burns right before you weep.

You can also have stinging eyes with your tears

Not all sobbing is equal (per AARP). Did you know that there are three different types of tears; and sometimes, depending on the situation, your eyes may sting too? We have basal tears, which are those that coat our eyes all day to keep them safe from germs and dirt; reflex tears, which are those that occur when you're chopping an onion or you walk into a room full of smoke; and emotional tears, the sort that escape us when we're watching something sappy on Netflix. Reflex tears have antibodies in them, per Healthline, and this is probably why your eyes sting if you ever have a case of reflex crying.

But, stinging sensations aside, this isn't the only way crying can influence how your nose feels. Remember the clogged nose we talked about earlier? This also has to do with how your nose and tear ducts are connected.

Crying affects your nose in other ways too

Just when you thought runny mascara was the worst of your worries, you're left with a bad runny nose when you cry. Again, this is because your nose and tear ducts are connected. 

When you cry, "tears drain into a tiny hole in the inner corner of your eyelids called the lacrimal punctum. This tiny hole is connected to the nasolacrimal duct so the tears drain into your nose, mixes with the mucus, and comes out your nose," explained NHS surgeon, Dr. Karan Raj. Additionally, Dr. Erich Voigt, Director of the Division of General Otolaryngology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told SELF, "So there are tears coming down the face but a lot of them are going down into the nose as well, and that's when the nose gets stuffy and we do a lot of sniffling."