Around the world, more than 400 million people suffer from a sinus-related condition known as rhinitis. While you may not be familiar with its clinical name, you most likely know its symptoms, which include sinus inflammation, itchiness, and a diminished sense of taste. 

Often referred to as hay fever, rhinitis is the fifth most common condition in the United States, affecting between 10% to 30% of adults and up to 40% of children.  

Armon Jadidian, M.D., F.A.C.S., board-certified otolaryngologist at Ear, Nose, Throat and Plastic Surgery Associates, says, “There are several forms of rhinitis, and treatment will vary by type.” 

In this blog, we’ll go over what rhinitis is, how it affects your sinuses, and what you can do to treat common symptoms.  

What Is Rhinitis?

A young girl suffering from rhinitis sits on a couch and rubs the bridge of her nose.Rhinitis–known informally as hay fever–is commonly regarded as a seasonal condition that causes congestion, inflammation, and discomfort in the nasal and breathing passageways. 

Dr. Jadidian says, “Rhinitis is the inflammation of the nasal cavity in the lining of the nose.” While the condition isn’t life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable when the delicate tissues inside the nose become inflamed.  

The nose serves as a critical throughput for air to the lungs. When the sinuses are working properly, about five to eight quarts of air pass through the nose each minute. The nose warms the air before it reaches the delicate lung tissue. It adds moisture to the air and traps tiny particles to keep them away from the lungs.

Your sense of smell is also connected to your sense of taste. In the same way, rhinitis can dull your ability to smell things and decrease your sense of taste. While we may not think of smell as one of our primary senses, it still serves a vital function in our lives. Our sense of smell warns us of dangers such as spoiled food or smoke from a fire. 

When we develop rhinitis, the systems that run through our nasal passageways are disrupted. Blood vessels swell, the nose constricts and becomes congested, and mucus production increases, leading to discomfort and limiting our sense of smell and taste.

What Causes Rhinitis?

A young boy, standing amongst blooming flowers on a tree, sneezes into his hands.The causes of this condition vary depending on the type of rhinitis. Dr. Jadidian says, “There’s allergic rhinitis, rhinitis related to eating (food-induced rhinitis), and the other is infectious or bacterial rhinitis.” 

The causes of these conditions include the following:

  • Allergic Rhinitis (caused by exposure to allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold)
  • Food-Induced Rhinitis/Gustatory Rhinitis (non-allergic rhinitis triggered by drinking or eating certain types of food)
  • Infectious Rhinitis (caused by a bacterial or viral infection, such as a cold or flu)

Some people can develop the condition from exposure to cold or dry air or air pollution. There is even a type of hormonal rhinitis experienced by pregnant women. All forms of the condition share symptoms, regardless of the cause. 

The most common causes of rhinitis include the following:

  • Animal Dander
  • Medications
  • Cockroach Waste
  • Dust Mites
  • Foods or Spices
  • Environmental Changes
  • Fumes and Odors
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Smoke
  • Temperature

How Do You Know If You Have Rhinitis?

The symptoms of rhinitis can vary depending on the severity of your condition. However, most cases display similar symptoms, including:

  • Clear nasal drainage 
  • Itchy throat, eyes, and ears
  • Nasal itching
  • Nosebleeds
  • Postnasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Mouth-breathing
  • Sneezing
  • Snoring
  • Stuffy Nose
  • Tiredness

Less common rhinitis symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

How Do You Treat Rhinitis?

Speaking with a doctor is the first step to relieving your rhinitis symptoms. Since rhinitis can be caused by different irritants, treatment will vary. 

Common treatments include:

  • Medications (antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal corticosteroids)
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
  • Avoiding Triggers
  • Lifestyle Changes (EX: quit smoking)
  • Surgery (to correct obstructions in the nose such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum)

When you meet with your doctor, they will examine your nasal cavity for inflammation. Your doctor will then ask about your symptoms, medical history, and known allergies. In some cases, the doctor may order allergy testing to discover the root cause of your condition.

Will Rhinitis Go Away on its Own?

How long your symptoms last will depend on the underlying cause. For example, allergic rhinitis may persist if exposure to allergens continues. Avoiding the allergen or taking an over-the-counter allergy pill may resolve the issue. Infectious rhinitis—caused by a virus—usually resolves within a week or two. Bacterial rhinitis may require antibiotics before the condition subsides.

Allergic and non-allergic rhinitis conditions can become chronic. Dr. Jadidian says, “Chronic rhinitis is typically inflammation of the lining of the nose that has gone on for a long time, usually in the range of multiple months.”

If your symptoms persist after taking over-the-counter treatments, schedule an appointment with your doctor—you may require additional testing to identify and resolve the cause of your condition. 

Can I Prevent Rhinitis During Allergy Season?

It may not be possible to prevent rhinitis during allergy season. However, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your exposure to allergens and alleviate your rhinitis symptoms:

  • Stay indoors during peak pollen hours (early mornings)
  • Keep windows and doors closed to keep pollen outside
  • Use air conditioning to filter the air
  • Wear a mask outside
  • Shower and change clothes
  • Use allergy medications, starting before allergy season
  • Consider immunotherapy if you don’t respond to other treatments

Can an ENT Treat Rhinitis?

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist like Dr. Jadidian specializes in conditions that affect your sinuses and airways. With extensive training and experience in diagnosing and treating rhinitis, an ENT can quickly identify and treat the source of your condition, helping you manage your symptoms. 

Suffering from congestion? You may have rhinitis. Thankfully, congestion relief is right around the corner.

Speak with one of our ENT specialists today by calling (407) 644-4883 or by filling out our online form.

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