Nonallergic Rhinitis

Overview

What is nonallergic rhinitis?

Nonallergic rhinitis happens when the tissues inside the nose become inflamed (swollen). It is also called vasomotor rhinitis.

For many people, nonallergic rhinitis results from exposure to certain triggers, like odors or certain medications. Some people develop this condition due to underlying health problems.

This condition does not result from exposure to allergens. Nasal inflammation because of allergens is caused by allergic rhinitis.

Who is likely to have nonallergic rhinitis?

Anyone can develop nonallergic rhinitis.

Symptoms and Causes

What causes nonallergic rhinitis?

Nonallergic rhinitis results when nasal tissues become inflamed and swollen as a result of a buildup of fluid.

Inflammation may occur as a result of viral illnesses or exposure to certain triggers, including:

Environmental triggers

  • Smoke
  • Spicy food
  • Perfume
  • Fumes from paint
  • A drop in temperature
  • Stress

Medication triggers

Hormonal imbalances due to:

  • Puberty
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormone medications, like birth control pills

Nonallergic rhinitis may also result from the misuse of illegal drugs, like cocaine.

What are the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis?

For most people, the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis include:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Diminished sense of smell

Rarely, nonallergic rhinitis causes a foul-smelling crust to form inside the nose. The interior nasal tissues may bleed when you attempt to remove the crust.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is nonallergic rhinitis diagnosed?

Your doctor diagnoses nonallergic rhinitis with a physical examination and a review of your medical history. In some cases, further testing helps confirm your diagnosis.

Your doctor may recommend allergy testing to confirm that allergies aren’t causing your condition. Allergy tests use blood tests or a skin prick test, which exposes your body to small amounts of specific allergens.

In rare cases, doctors examine the inside of your nose and nasal passages with a long, flexible tube called an endoscope. During the exam, the doctor can identify any other problems that may cause your symptoms, such as nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths of tissue occurring in your sinuses or nasal passages.

Your doctor may recommend a computed tomography (CT) scan. This test uses X-rays to create detailed pictures of the inside of your nose. Your doctor may order other tests, like a nasal inspiratory flow test, to measure how much air enters your lungs when you inhale.

Management and Treatment

How is nonallergic rhinitis treated?

There is no cure for nonallergic rhinitis. Many people manage symptoms with self-care measures, changes to their environment and medications.

Nonallergic rhinitis caused by a viral infection usually resolves on its own without treatment.

If your condition results from exposure to triggers like perfumes, treatment may be as simple as avoiding the triggers that cause your symptoms.

Adding humidity to the air of your home or workplace may ease symptoms. It may be helpful to rinse your nasal passages with a saline (salt water) solution to clean out your nose and nasal cavities.

Prescribed medications can decrease nasal inflammation and manage your symptoms. These medications may include:

  • Decongestant nasal sprays to relieve nasal congestion
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays that reduce inflammation in the nose
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays to reduce nasal inflammation
  • Anticholinergic nasal sprays to minimize the amount of mucus produced in your nose

What complications are associated with nonallergic rhinitis?

Left untreated, nonallergic rhinitis may cause persistently blocked nasal passages or a constantly runny nose. These conditions can cause complications including:

  • Middle ear infections
  • Nasal polyps
  • Sinusitis, an inflammation of the sinus cavities
  • Difficulty sleeping, and a tired feeling during the day
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

Prevention

Can nonallergic rhinitis be prevented?

There is no way to prevent nonallergic rhinitis. You can lower your risk by avoiding triggers known to cause rhinitis.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the prognosis (outlook) for people with nonallergic rhinitis?

For many people, nonallergic rhinitis is a chronic, or long-term, condition. It may come and go over time. Nonallergic rhinitis occurring from viral infections usually resolves quickly.

Living With

When should I contact my doctor?

If you have any symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis that will not go away, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help determine whether nonallergic rhinitis causes your symptoms.

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Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy