Rhinitis is a condition marked by chronic sneezing and congestion, similar to hay fever but caused by something other than allergies. It is usually referred to as nonallergic rhinitis, and affects an estimated 19 million Americans annually, causing misery year-round.
The symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis are similar to what you’d experience when suffering from a cold or allergies: runny nose, postnasal drip, stuffy nose, and sneezing. Nonallergic rhinitis does not involve the immune system, and can be distinguished from hay fever (allergic rhinitis) by the absence of itchy, watery eyes, and an itchy nose and throat. It occurs when blood vessels in the nose dilate, filling the nasal lining with fluid and causing swelling and inflammation. This can be the result of a variety of diverse triggers including environmental or industrial irritants (e.g. cigarette smoke, perfume, chemical fumes), infections (colds or flu, chronic sinusitis), changes in the weather, foods and beverages, medications, hormonal changes (pregnancy, menstruation), and emotional or physical stress.
Certain risk factors make you more susceptible to nonallergic rhinitis. These include exposure to irritants (either environmental or occupational), prolonged use of decongestants, being older than 20, and being female.
Rhinitis is a condition marked by chronic sneezing and congestion, similar to hay fever but caused by something other than allergies.
To diagnose nonallergic rhinitis, other causes will need to be ruled out first, particularly allergies. Skin and blood tests can confirm that allergens are not to blame for your symptoms. Your doctor or an ENT specialist may rely on other diagnostic tools such as nasal endoscopy, CT scan, or x-rays to check for obstructions like nasal polyps or a deviated septum. If these tests fail to show an underlying condition, nonallergic rhinitis is usually diagnosed based on the persistence of your symptoms.
Treatment typically relies on medications. Saline or corticosteroid nasal sprays, antihistamines, and decongestants may all bring relief, depending on the severity of your symptoms. You may also find success using a neti pot or bulb syringe, a humidifier or vaporizer, and avoiding known triggers, such as cigarette smoke or spicy foods.