Chronic Rhinitis

Rhinitis simply refers to any inflammation of your nose’s inner lining. There are two kinds of rhinitis — allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, and non-allergic rhinitis. Because treatment for allergic rhinitis is so distinct, we’ve dedicated a separate page to it. On this page, we’ll talk about non-allergic rhinitis.

What Is Chronic Rhinitis?

Non-allergic rhinitis is considered chronic if it lasts four weeks or longer. It might seem a lot like hay fever, complete with cold-like symptoms that leave you feeling miserable and worn out. It’s not caused by an allergen, however, so your body doesn’t develop the telltale immune response. They feel so similar — and it can be so difficult to determine a cause — that it might take allergy testing to rule out hay fever.

What Are the Symptoms of Non-Allergic Rhinitis?

Symptoms can be continual or come and go, and common ones include runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and postnasal drip — but not itchy eyes, nose, or throat. These last three symptoms, if present, indicate you’re most likely experiencing hay fever. If your non-allergic rhinitis symptoms go untreated for too long, it can result in nasal polyps, chronic sinusitis, and ear infections.

What Are Some Common Causes of Non-Allergic Rhinitis?

Though the exact mechanism leading to non-allergic rhinitis isn’t clear, there are many known triggers, including:

  • Environmental irritants such as detergents, strong odors, smog, and tobacco smoke
  • Weather changes, such as cold or dry air
  • Viral infections, such as cold or flu
  • Hot or spicy foods or beverages
  • Common medications such as pain relievers, oral contraceptives, antidepressants, and beta-blockers
  • Hormonal changes, such as with pregnancy or thyroid conditions
  • Stress
  • Structural problems such as a deviated septum or enlarged turbinates

In some cases, the specific cause can’t be identified.

How Is Non-Allergic Rhinitis Diagnosed?

A diagnosis of non-allergic rhinitis is based on your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will most likely want to rule out allergies by performing skin and blood tests, and a nasal endoscopy or CT scan might be used to check for structural issues such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum.

How Is Chronic Rhinitis Treated?

Chronic non-allergic rhinitis treatment is based on how severe your symptoms are. Mild cases might respond to simple home remedies, such as nasal irrigation with a Neti pot or bulb syringe, use of a humidifier, or drinking lots of liquids. If you know specifically what’s causing your symptoms, avoid it if possible. Your doctor might recommend over-the-counter or prescription medication, such as antihistamines, decongestants, or nasal sprays.

Surgery is probably going to be required for structural problems such as nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or enlarged adenoids, but it’s usually reserved as a last resort.

Call ENT Physicians and Surgeons at (603) 669-0831 if you’ve had persistent nasal congestion for more than four weeks and over-the-counter medications aren’t working.