What is Rhinitis?

When the mucous membrane in your nose swells and gets inflamed, causing you irritation, a runny nose, stuffiness, and discomfort, we call this rhinitis. It can be classified as allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis. It’s most commonly caused by seasonal allergies or the common cold.

Woman with Rhinitis

Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

According to MedlinePlus, symptoms of rhinitis are sneezing, stuffiness, watery eyes, itchiness around the nose, mouth, and eyes, and a runny nose.1 It can also include thickening of the mucous in your nose, in which case your post nasal drip may cause a sore throat or a cough.

Over time, you may also develop clogged ears, puffiness or dark circles under the eyes, headache, fatigue, and a decreased sense of smell.

Rhinitis is diagnosed based on these symptoms, but it is often aggravated by other conditions, so treating the underlying issue is sometimes the best way to alleviate rhinitis altogether. If you have allergic rhinitis, the best way to treat it may be antihistamines or allergy shots.

If you have a chronic form of non-allergic rhinitis caused by a recurring infection, antibiotics may be the best route to take. In some severe cases, surgery is the only option to provide relief.

Allergic Rhinitis

When your immune system reacts to an environmental trigger, this causes allergic rhinitis. People with seasonal allergies may experience this in the spring or fall when pollen counts and other allergens in the air are high while sufferers of year-round allergies will feel the pain even more.

Common environmental triggers for allergic rhinitis include animals, mold, pollen, dust, grass, and trees. Allergic rhinitis can cause even more symptoms like an itchy nose or itchy, watery eyes. It can cause headaches or swollen eyes caused by eye allergies.

If you are diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, it’s best to avoid the environmental triggers that caused it. However, this is not always possible. Using nasal sprays can help reduce inflammation while antihistamines can prevent an allergic reaction altogether.

A natural approach can include a saltwater rinse that flushes through your nose to irrigate the sinuses and relieve some pressure. It can clear the nasal cavities and reduce some of the symptoms. It can generally be repeated as much as necessary.

In extreme cases, allergy shots may be the best way to eliminate the allergic reaction for the long term, helping you build a tolerance to the substance, but can take a few months or years to be effective, depending on the severity of the allergy.

Antibiotics will not help reduce or relieve the symptoms you experience from allergic rhinitis, because it is not caused by an infection. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed causes your body to build up a resistance to antibiotics so that the next time you do need them, they may not be as effective.

Man with allergic Rhinitis

Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Non-allergic rhinitis is normally caused by a viral infection. As part of the airway, your nose faces and fights off many possible infections every day, but it doesn't always win.

Your non-allergic rhinitis can be acute or chronic. Acute rhinitis is typically caused by viral infections like the common cold, but can sometimes be caused by bacteria or environmental irritants.

You could experience additional symptoms like congestion or a low-grade fever. You can take decongestants available over the counter to help reduce swelling and inflammation in your nose. You can also use nasal sprays for a few days.

Antihistamines may even help to dry up some of your runny nose. However, antibiotics will not help against the common cold because it is not a bacterial infection.

Chronic rhinitis often stems from the same causes as acute rhinitis, but the inflammation hangs around for longer, recurs more often, and won’t seem to go away. In some rare cases, chronic rhinitis is caused by diseases like tuberculosis, syphilis, leprosy, and a few others.

Chronic rhinitis can result in nasal obstruction, crusting, bleeding, and foul-smelling discharge. You can take decongestants, but it’s also important to treat any underlying infection or disease to prevent the rhinitis from recurring.

Other types of chronic rhinitis include atrophic rhinitis, vasomotor rhinitis, and rhinitis medicamentosa.

What Now?

Doctor treating his patient

By far, the most common cause of rhinitis is an environmental trigger like a nasal allergy, which is easy to treat with over the counter medications, prescriptions, or allergy shots. If you suspect you have rhinitis caused by nasal allergy symptoms, consult an allergy specialist for a comprehensive treatment plan.


Contact us for more information

Mathew M. Varghese, MD

Pediatric & Adult Allergy Specialists

136 North Washington Ave. Suite 203

Bergenfield, NJ 07621

1201 Summit Avenue

Jersey City, NJ 07307


8901 Kennedy Blvd West, Suite 4SW

North Bergen, NJ 07047


Tel:  201-374-1718  

Fax: 201-374-1719



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