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What is Rhinitis?

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What is Rhinitis?

writtenByWritten by: Ryan Quinn
Ryan Quinn

Ryan Quinn

Ryan has a background in geochemical research and enjoys writing on technical subjects like health and science. He lives in Salt Lake City, UT and can be found recreating in the local mountains.

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November 13, 2018 Read Time - 3 minutes

Ever had a runny or stuffy nose? If so, it may have been caused by a state of swollen and inflamed mucus membranes in the nose called rhinitis.

Medical professionals classify rhinitis as either allergic or non-allergic depending on whether or not there is an immune response causing swelling and inflammation.

Allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) is fairly common. According to the National Institute of Health, about 8% of adults and are affected by allergic rhinitis. The non-allergic type of rhinitis is less common, affecting about 2% of adults.

Read on to learn more about signs, symptoms and treatments of rhinitis.

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What Causes Rhinitis?

The cause of allergic rhinitis is an immune response to a non-harmful particle. The cause of non-allergic rhinitis is not fully understood.

Allergic rhinitis

Particles such as dander, pollen, mold spores, dust, etc. are commonly inhaled through the nose. These particles are not harmful to the body, but some immune systems misidentify them as harmful and trigger an immune response.

The immune system causes the mucus membranes in the nose to swell in attempt to rid the body of the perceived threat, resulting in rhinitis.

Non-allergic rhinitis

Causes for non-allergic rhinitis are not well understood, but there are some things we do know.

There are some known environmental irritants that can cause non-allergic rhinitis. These include:

  • smoke
  • dust
  • perfume
  • latex
  • some medications & foods

However, these irritants do not cause an immune response so it is classified as non-allergic.

Changes in the weather or hormone levels can also trigger non-allergic rhinitis.

Acute viral rhinitis can be caused by a viral infection such as the common cold. Whatever non-allergic rhinitis is caused by, the symptoms are largely identical to allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms of Rhinitis

Symptoms of rhinitis include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Postnasal drip
  • Possible cough
  • Possible low-grade fever

Accompanying symptoms from allergies might include:

  • Itching
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Red eyes or skin
  • Wheezing
  • Headache

Rhinitis Treatment

Because non-allergic rhinitis is not well understood, treatment options are limited. For people who have already developed non-allergic rhinitis, the best thing to do is to avoid your triggers.

Nasal irrigation (e.g. neti pots) can help some people with non-allergic rhinitis, but be sure to use safe irrigation methods. Nasal irrigation can be done from home one or more times per day.

Some medications for non-allergic rhinitis are available including: nasal glucocoricoids, nasal ipratropium, and decongestants.

Take caution when treating non-allergic rhinitis with decongestants, because overuse can actually worsen symptoms. Do not use nasal decongestants for more than a few days at a time.

There are more treatment options for allergies including:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Mast cell stabilizers
  • Corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene inhibitors
  • Immunotherapy
  • Preventative treatment by avoiding triggers

If you think you are suffering from rhinitis speak with a PlushCare doctor today to help determine if one of these treatment options is right for you.

Read more about rhinitis

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