Nonallergic rhinitis involves chronic sneezing or having a congested, drippy nose with no apparent cause. The symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis are similar to those of hay fever (allergic rhinitis), but there's no identified allergic reaction involved. Nonallergic rhinitis can affect children and adults, but is more common after age 20.
Although nonallergic rhinitis is more annoying than harmful, it can make you miserable. Triggers of nonallergic rhinitis symptoms vary and can include certain odors or irritants in the air, changes in the weather, some medications, certain foods, and chronic health conditions. A diagnosis of nonallergic rhinitis is made after an allergic cause is ruled out. This may require allergy skin or blood tests.
If you have nonallergic rhinitis, you probably have symptoms that come and go year-round. You may have constant symptoms, symptoms that last for hours or symptoms that last for days. Signs and symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis may include:
Nonallergic rhinitis doesn't usually cause itchy nose, eyes or throat — symptoms associated with allergies such as hay fever.
When to see a doctor
Nonallergic rhinitis occurs when blood vessels in your nose expand (dilate), filling the nasal lining with blood and fluid. There are several possible causes of this abnormal expansion of the blood vessels or inflammation in the nose. But, whatever the trigger, the result is the same — swollen nasal membranes and congestion.
Many things can trigger the nasal swelling in nonallergic rhinitis — some resulting in short-lived symptoms while others cause chronic problems. Nonallergic rhinitis triggers include:
Factors that may increase your risk of nonallergic rhinitis include:
Complications from nonallergic rhinitis include:
Preparing for your appointment
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions for your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important. For nonallergic rhinitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Nonallergic rhinitis is diagnosed based on your symptoms and ruling out other causes, especially allergies. Your doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your symptoms. He or she may also recommend certain tests. There are no specific, definite tests used to diagnose nonallergic rhinitis.
Your doctor is likely to conclude your symptoms are caused by nonallergic rhinitis if you have nasal congestion, a runny nose or postnasal drip, and tests for other conditions don't reveal an underlying cause such as allergies or a sinus problem.
In some cases, your doctor may have you try a medication and see whether your symptoms improve.
Ruling out an allergic cause
In some cases, rhinitis may be caused by both allergic and nonallergic causes.
Ruling out sinus problems
Treatments and drugs
Treatment of nonallergic rhinitis depends on how much it bothers you. For mild cases, home treatment and avoiding triggers may be enough. For more-bothersome symptoms, certain medications may provide relief, including:
Over-the-counter oral antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and loratadine (Claritin), typically don't work nearly as well for nonallergic rhinitis as they do for allergic rhinitis.
In some cases, surgical procedures may be an option to treat complicating problems, such as a deviated nasal septum or persistent nasal polyps.
Some studies have shown repeated applications of capsaicin — the ingredient responsible for the heat in hot peppers — to the inside of the nose to be effective. But nasal saline, corticosteroid nasal sprays or antihistamine nasal sprays are the usually recommended initial treatments.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Try these tips to help reduce discomfort and relieve the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis:
Coping and support
In addition to making you miserable, nonallergic rhinitis symptoms can interfere with your day-to-day routine, including work or school. Side effects of medications can sometimes make these problems worse.
In many cases, there's no way to avoid the underlying conditions that cause nonallergic rhinitis. However, if you already have it, you can take steps to reduce your symptoms and prevent flare-ups:
Last Updated: 2013-02-19
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