What is rhinitis?

Rhinitis is a reaction that happens in the eyes, nose and throat when allergens in the air trigger the release of histamine in the body. Histamine causes itching, swelling, and fluid to build up in the fragile linings of nasal passages, sinuses and eyelids.

There are two types of rhinitis: allergic (seasonal) rhinitis and non-allergic (year-round) rhinitis.

What causes rhinitis?

The most common causes of rhinitis are:

  • Pollen given off by trees, grass and weeds
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Cockroach waste
  • Animal dander
  • Fumes and odors
  • Temperature
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain medicines and overuse of topical nose sprays
  • Changes in the environment
  • Smoke
  • Certain foods or spices

Who is at risk for rhinitis?

People with asthma are at a higher risk for rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is a common problem that may be linked to asthma. However, this link is not fully understood. Experts think that since rhinitis makes it hard to breathe through the nose, it is harder for the nose to work normally. Breathing through the mouth does not warm, filter, or humidify the air before it enters the lungs. This can make asthma symptoms worse.

Controlling asthma may help control allergic rhinitis in some patients.

What are the symptoms of rhinitis?

Symptoms of rhinitis include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose, throat, eyes and ears
  • Nosebleeds
  • Clear drainage from the nose
  • Ear infections that keep coming back
  • Snoring
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Tiredness

How is rhinitis diagnosed?

Most often, the diagnosis is made by your health care provider based on an in-depth history and physical exam. In addition to the above signs, the health care provider may find:

  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Creases under the eyes
  • Swollen tissues inside the nose
  • Mouth breathing

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