Most people have had occasional instances of a runny or itchy nose, congestion, or postnasal drip.
These symptoms normally go away fairly quickly. However, if you are experiencing these annoyances on a regular basis for several months, you may have what’s called chronic rhinitis. This condition can be further broken down as allergic or non-allergic rhinitis.
Chronic Allergic Rhinitis
Chronic allergic rhinitis is related to one or more allergies. Even if you know your allergy triggers, they could be difficult to manage or entirely avoid. This might leave you with persistent or constant allergy-related symptoms. If you are unable to manage your symptoms, you may develop chronic sinus infections (sinusitis) or nasal growths (polyps). Allergic rhinitis is also characterized by itchy and watery eyes. If you have a related sinus infection, you may experience unexplained fatigue, facial pain, and fever. Some people also have toothaches or a foul-smelling discharge from the nose.
Chronic Non-Allergic Rhinitis
Non-allergic rhinitis is not related to allergies or a sinus infection. Even so, you may still experience constant or periodic symptoms that include:
- Coughing and sneezing
- A runny nose
- Mucus in the throat
However, this type of chronic rhinitis typically does not cause itchiness around the eyes, within your nose, or in your throat – symptoms commonly associated with hay fever. Changes in the weather, environmental or occupational irritants, hormone changes, and reactions to certain medications are among the possible causes of non-allergic rhinitis. You may also develop chronic rhinitis symptoms if you have obstructive sleep apnea or acid reflux. Additionally, medications being taken for high blood pressure and other conditions may contribute to non-allergic rhinitis.
Making a Diagnosis
Because symptoms associated with allergic and non-allergic rhinitis can be similar, diagnosis typically involves pinpointing a source of your symptoms. There are no specific tests performed specifically to diagnose chronic rhinitis. However, you may have a skin and blood test to determine if your rhinitis is related to allergies.
Patients are sometimes evaluated for related sinus problems as well. This process often involves a nasal endoscopy, which is performed with a lighted tube with an attached lens that’s inserted through the nostrils. A CT scan may also be performed to determine if there are structural issues or blockages.
Treating Chronic Rhinitis
If you have chronic allergic rhinitis, treatment at UCI’s Sinus Surgery Center is likely to be largely based on managing your allergy triggers and symptoms. Some patients are able to do this effectively with antihistamines. Other individuals benefit from the avoidance of allergy triggers (when possible) or the use of cool mist humidifier. Antibiotics may help with a related sinus infection. Some individuals with either allergic or non-allergic rhinitis may also benefit from:
- Saline nasal sprays
- Over-the-counter decongestants
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Drinking more water
There is some evidence suggesting children who enjoy a diet that includes certain polyunsaturated fatty acids and oily, omega-3-rich fish like salmon and sardines are less likely to develop rhinitis. However, there is no standard protocol for presentation of this condition. But it can also be helpful to avoid known allergy triggers and the excessive use of nasal decongestants.