Nonallergic Rhinitis

Condition Basics

What is nonallergic rhinitis?

Rhinitis is inflammation and swelling in the nose. It's often triggered by an allergy. Nonallergic rhinitis is the term used for rhinitis that is caused by things other than allergies. It may also be called vasomotor rhinitis.

What causes it?

Certain triggers can cause inflammation and swelling in the nose. They include:

  • Infection with a virus (viral or post-viral rhinitis).
  • Changes in the weather.
  • Dry air.
  • Polluted air, such as from fumes, smoke, odors, and perfumes.
  • Spicy food or drink.
  • Certain medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and hormones.
  • Hormone changes in the body (such as rhinitis of pregnancy).
  • Alcohol use.
  • Aging.

What are the symptoms?

Rhinitis symptoms can be long-lasting, or they can come and go. They may include:

  • A runny nose.
  • A stuffy nose.
  • Drainage down the back of the throat from the nose and sinuses. (This drainage is called postnasal drip.)
  • Sneezing.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms, such as how and when your symptoms started and what has made them worse or better. You may have allergy testing.

How can you care for yourself?

You can take simple measures to help relieve your symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis.

  • Try to avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
  • Use saline (salt water) to rinse your nasal passages once or twice a day. Then blow your nose. You can use:
    • A saline nasal spray. It's easy and quick to use, and you can find it in any drugstore.
    • A neti pot or bulb syringe to stream salt water into one nostril and out the other. (To make a saline rinse, add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 cups of distilled water.)
  • Use a prescription or over-the-counter nasal medicine, as recommended by your doctor. Different types that might be helpful include antihistamine, corticosteroid, decongestant, and capsaicin nasal sprays.

If your doctor recommends medicine to relieve symptoms, make sure to take it exactly as prescribed. For example, take a decongestant spray for no more than 3 or 4 days. Longer use can make symptoms worse. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

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