What is rhinitis?

Picture of a woman using nasal spray

Rhinitis is a reaction that occurs in the eyes, nose, and throat when airborne irritants (allergens) trigger the release of histamine. Histamine causes inflammation and fluid production in the fragile linings of nasal passages, sinuses, and eyelids.

What are the different types of rhinitis?

The two categories of rhinitis are allergic and nonallergic.

Allergic rhinitis

There are two types of allergic rhinitis:

The most common causes of allergic rhinitis are:

Reactions from allergic rhinitis include:

People with perennial allergic rhinitis may also have the following:

Preventive measures for avoiding allergic rhinitis include:

Nonallergic rhinitis

Types of nonallergic rhinitis are:

Causes of nonallergic rhinitis include:

Reactions from nonallergic rhinitis include:

The preventive measure for avoiding nonallergic rhinitis is avoiding the primary cause.

Treatments for allergic or nonallergic rhinitis, as determined by your health care provider and based on your condition, may include:

How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?

Typically, the diagnosis is made by your health care provider based on a thorough history and physical examination. In addition to the above signs, the health care provider may find, on physical examination, dark circles under the eyes, creases under the eyes, swollen tissue inside the nose, and mouth breathing.

Treatment for allergic rhinitis

Avoidance of the allergens that are causing the problem is the best treatment. Specific treatment will be determined by your health care provider based on:

Treatment may include:

If you do not respond to avoidance or to the above medications, your health care provider may refer you to an allergist for testing. The allergist then may recommend immunotherapy based on the findings. Immunotherapy usually involves a three- to five-year course of repeated injections of specific allergens to decrease the reaction to these allergens when you come into contact with them. Consult your health care provider for more information.

The link between allergic rhinitis and asthma

Controlling asthma may mean controlling allergic rhinitis in some patients, according to allergy and asthma experts. Allergic rhinitis is a common problem that may be associated with asthma.

Guidelines from the World Health Organization recognize the link between allergic rhinitis and asthma. Although the link is not fully understood, one theory asserts that rhinitis makes it difficult to breathe through the nose, which hampers the normal function of the nose. Breathing through the mouth does not warm the air, or filter or humidify it before it enters the lungs, which can make asthma worse.

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