Rhinitis (patient information)

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What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Rhinitis?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Fatimo Biobaku M.B.B.S [2]


Rhinitis is a condition that includes runny nose, sneezing, nose itching, and nasal stuffiness. When these symptoms are due to allergies, it is called allergic rhinitis. When the symptoms are not caused by allergies, it is called nonallergic rhinitis. Rhinitis caused by allergies is the more common type.

What are the symptoms of Rhinitis?

The symptoms of rhinitis can include the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nose itching
  • Eye symptoms such as itching, tearing, redness, also frequently occur in patients with rhinitis, especially when the cause is as a result of allergies.
  • Dark circles may later appear under the eyes
  • Headache, tiredness, cough can also occur

What causes Rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis- This is caused by allergens. An allergen is something that triggers an allergy. Examples of allergens are pollens, mold, animal dander, or dust. When a person with allergic rhinitis breathes in an allergen, the body responds by releasing chemicals that cause the allergy symptoms.

Nonallergic rhinitis- There are different types of nonallergic rhinitis. The exact cause of some of the types is not known. The symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis can be triggered by the following:

  • Dry air
  • Cold air
  • Alcohol intake
  • Spicy food
  • Strong emotions
  • Infection- such as common cold. This is the second most common type of rhinitis in children. The most common type of rhinitis is the allergic type.

Who is at highest risk?

Children whose parents have allergic rhinitis or other conditions that are caused by allergies have an increased risk. Individuals who already have some conditions that are cause by allergies such as asthma are at a greater risk. Exposure to tobacco smoke and air pollutants can also increase the risk of having rhinitis. Children who attend daycare also have a higher risk of getting the rhinitis caused by infections.


Your doctor will ask you series of questions to determine the type of rhinitis you have. Questions such as whether your symptoms vary by time of day or season, and exposure to pets or other allergens will be asked. Allergy testing can also help determine if your symptoms are due to allergy or if you have the nonallergic type. Allergy testing such as skin testing are commonly done, and they may reveal the trigger for your symptoms such as pollens or other allergens. Another allergy testing known as Radioallergosorbent test (RAST) can also be done if your doctor determines you cannot have skin testing. RAST is a special blood test that determines the level of allergy-related substances in your blood.

When to seek urgent medical care?

You should seek urgent help if your symptoms affect your daily activities such as your work/school performance, sleep, leisure, sport, etc. You should also seek help if your symptoms do not respond to treatment or if the treatment no longer works.

Treatment options

Avoidance of the triggers that cause your symptoms whenever you can is usually of benefit. Nasal wash with saline solution also helps. Oral medications such as antihistamines are sometimes effective. Nasal sprays containing antihistamines or steroids can also be prescribed by your doctor depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Where to find medical care for Rhinitis?

Primary care doctors can treat rhinitis. However, you may need to see a specialist if you need further evaluation or require additional therapy such as Allergen immunotherapy(allergy shots). Allergy shots are regular shots of the particular allergen you are allergic to. Each dose is slightly larger than the dose before it, until you reach the dose that helps control your symptoms. Allergy shots may help your body adjust to the allergen that is causing your symptoms.

Prevention of Rhinitis

If you know the trigger for your rhinitis, you can sometimes prevent the symptoms of rhinitis by avoiding the trigger. If you are allergic to pollen, you should try to stay indoors whenever you can, sleep with the windows closed, and drive with the windows rolled up.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Most symptoms of rhinitis can be treated. For some people, the symptoms resolve as they grow older.

Possible complications

Some of the possible conditions that can develop in a person with rhinitis are:

  • Clogging of the ears
  • Inflamed sinuses. The sinuses are hollow air spaces within the bones surrounding the nose.
  • Worsening of asthma in asthmatic patients
  • Sleep apnea- This is when the breathing stops intermittently or gets very shallow during sleep.
  • Mouth breathing in children. This can lead to malformed teeth



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