Rhinitis – What is?
There are two types of rhinitis: allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis is caused by allergens. Allergy symptoms are the result of a chain reaction that starts in the immune system. The antibodies travel to cells that release histamine and other chemicals, causing an allergic reaction with symptoms such as sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose, itching and post-nasal drip. People with allergic rhinitis are also prone to itchy, watery eyes (from allergic conjunctivitis), and they may be more sensitive to irritants such as smoke, perfume or cold, dry air. Rhinitis can contribute to other problems such as asthma, sinus or ear conditions, or trouble sleeping.
Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis An allergist/immunologist, will take a detailed health history, perform a physical exam and test you for allergies. Skin tests show the results within 20 minutes. Possible treatment plan: Steps to manage your symptoms include avoiding the allergens you are allergic to, medications or allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots).
Many people with rhinitis symptoms do not have allergies. If you have non-allergic rhinitis, avoiding allergens is unnecessary and won’t help your symptoms.
Non-allergic rhinitis usually begins in adults and causes year-round symptoms, especially a runny nose and nasal stuffiness. Strong odors, pollution, weather changes, smoke and other irritants may cause symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis. Non-allergic rhinitis symptoms can also develop as side effects of medications, including some blood pressure medicines, oral contraceptives or medications used for erectile dysfunction. Another type of non-allergic rhinitis is caused by nasal decongestant sprays such as oxymetazoline, when used for long periods of time. This type of medication-induced rhinitis is called rhinitis medicamentosa.
Treatment of Non-Allergic Rhinitis Oral antihistamines and anti-leukotriene drugs generally do not benefit non-allergic rhinitis. However, treatment options include nasal corticosteroid sprays and nasal antihistamine sprays. Ipratropium nasal spray can relieve a runny nose and decongestant pills can be used as needed to relieve nasal stuffiness.