Rhinitis is an irritation and inflammation of the nasal cavity, which can cause symptoms such as nasal congestion and tightness, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and chronic headaches. Having to live with rhinitis daily can be quite irritating, and even painful.
Causes and Types of Rhinitis
Irritation and inflammation of the nasal lining can occur due to a variety of reasons. However, these symptoms most commonly occur due to irritants or triggers — that cause swelling of the nasal membranes and increase nasal secretion or mucus.
Rhinitis can be divided into 2 main types, according to its triggers:
1. Allergic Rhinitis – caused by allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, certain insects, etc.
2. Non-allergic Rhinitis – not caused by allergens, but rather by factors such as sudden temperature changes, humidity, dry weather, extreme cold or hot temperatures, environment, etc.
Rhinitis may also be caused by viral or bacterial infections.
Symptoms of Rhinitis
Common symptoms of rhinitis include nasal congestion or a blocked, stuffy nose (either on one or both sides), and runny nose. Pain at the back of the ears, intense occipital headaches (especially just after waking up in the mornings), fatigue, and drowsiness may also occur in some patients. Patients with allergic rhinitis may also experience symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, in addition to the aforementioned symptoms.
Diagnosis of Rhinitis
Doctors will carry out an investigation that involves a thorough review of the patient’s health history and a physical examination, as well as any additional tests deemed necessary:
- A thorough review of the patient’s health history will help to pinpoint what triggered the symptoms — such as the surrounding environment, workplace, or behavioral habits of the patient. Trigger(s) are often something close or common to the patient. For example, headaches may occur due to sudden temperature changes (going in and out of air-conditioned areas frequently), or nasal congestion and sneezing may occur every time a patient is exposed to dust.
- A physical examination to observe the swelling of the nasal mucosa, color of nasal mucus, etc.
- Additional tests, such as a nasal endoscopy, skin test, or a serum IgE (immunoglobulin E) blood test, may be carried out under the doctor’s discretion.
Treatment of Rhinitis
Treatment of rhinitis may involve targeting the cause of the condition, such as allergies or a cold. Symptoms can be treated with the use of nasal sprays, which involve topical nasal steroid medications. They are typically used in small dosages for no less than 1 month in order to reduce inflammation; after which, if symptoms improve, the doctor will gradually reduce the dosage until sprays are only required as symptoms reappear.
Due to the fact that nasal sprays are administered directly into the nose, it has been found that they often have better treatment outcomes than oral medications.
Prevention of Rhinitis
Rhinitis is a common condition, but unfortunately, cannot be completely cured. This means that when an irritant or trigger returns, the patient will likely once again experience symptoms. If its occurrence is frequent, it can greatly affect the patient’s quality of life, resulting in, for example, a decline in work performance or frequent visits to the doctor, as well as possible side effects from seeking treatment such as fatigue, drowsiness, nasal dryness, and nosebleeds.
Prevention of rhinitis involves avoiding the risk factors, such as:
- Allergy triggers, such as dust or smoke
- Direct exposure to cold, dry air
- Sudden temperature changes
Additionally, getting good sleep and regular exercise can help prevent rhinitis. Exercise helps to balance the body's immune system and can help decrease nasal mucosa’s sensitivity to triggers.
To learn more about the prevention and treatment of rhinitis, please contact the ENT Center at Bumrungrad International. To make an appointment with an ENT specialist, click here .