What is Chronic Rhinitis?
Rhinitis is the inflammation of the lining in the nose which produces symptoms including: runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and itchiness. Rhinitis can be experienced acutely or chronically. Chronic rhinitis is when symptoms are experienced long-term, typically longer than four weeks. In contrast, acute rhinitis refers to symptoms that last a few days. The most common cause of chronic rhinitis is allergies.
Causes: Allergic & Non-Allergic Rhinitis
Also known as hay fever or seasonal allergies, allergic rhinitis is produced by the body’s reaction to a specific allergen. There are various ways you can come into contact with an allergen: ingesting, inhaling, touching, or injecting into the body. The most common type of allergen is pollen, a powder like substance produced by plants to fertilize other plants. Allergies to pollen are more common during spring and summer months as drier days allow pollen to remain in the environment for a longer period of time, activating allergies more intensely. Other sources of allergic rhinitis include pet dander, mold, and fungi.
When the body encounters an allergen, the immune system identifies the substance as harmful which activates its response system. The body releases antibodies to neutralize the substance which is perceived as a threat. These antibodies then detect the allergen every time they experience it, releasing chemicals (like histamine) into the bloodstream. This process produces the symptoms associated with allergies: itchy/watery eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, skin irritation, nausea etc.
Less common, non-allergic rhinitis is a type of rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) that does not involve the body’s immune system. Rather, it is triggered by environmental substances that cause the blood vessels in the nose to expand, leading to congestion. Common allergens include perfumes, detergents, pollution, detergents, smoke, and weather change. Chronic non-allergic rhinitis accounts for 25% of all rhinitis that people experience, compared to the 75% that allergic rhinitis represents.
Treating Chronic Rhinitis
Symptoms can be effectively self-managed in a variety of ways. There are over the counter medications and natural remedies that are commonly used to alleviate symptoms. Nonprescription medications include:
- Antihistamines: taken orally and used to alleviate the most common symptoms of allergies (Claritin, Zyrtec, Allegra, etc.)
- Decongestants: work to relieve nasal congestion and can be taken either orally or via nasal spray.
- Nasal Spray: can alleviate congestion in the nose.
There are also medications that combine antihistamines with decongestants. Additionally, home remedies include:
- Rinsing nasal passages with saline solution to reduce congestion. This can be done with a neti pot or bottle that can be squeezed.
- Acupuncture: an ancient practice grounded in traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into the body (at specific pressure points) to alleviate pain.
- Steaming: steam from a machine or humidifier can reduce buildup of mucus that causes congestion.
- Ingesting raw honey to alleviate irritation of the throat. Honey is often mixed into tea or hot water.
If chronic rhinitis is caused by structural issues affecting the nose and sinuses, surgery may be an option. Corrective surgery for a deviated septum or other structural issues are typically a last resort and applied if other treatments are not effective. This has to be discussed with your doctor who is able to best identify and treat your symptoms.
Tips to Manage Rhinitis
In addition to finding out what treats and alleviates your symptoms, there are useful ways you can manage your allergies. A few tips include:
- Be aware of the pollen count! Allergies can be more intense when there is more pollen in the air. You can learn about the pollen count on your local news sources or online. If pollen is projected, be sure to take any medications in advance.
- Keep windows and doors closed when pollen is high.
- Avoid outdoor environments when pollen is high. Pollen tends to be most prevalent during the morning and on windy days.
- Keep the air indoors as clean as possible by vacuuming regularly, using a dehumidifier, regularly replacing air conditioning filters etc.
Chronic rhinitis can be frustrating to navigate as symptoms can really affect your wellness and daily life. To manage your symptoms effectively, find the right combination of medications and remedies that work for you in addition to practicing tips to reduce your exposure to allergens!
If you are seeking treatment, we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our allergy services.