Rhinitis: Things you should know about it
By:-Dr. Jasveer Singh
Rhinitis is a reaction when the allergens present in the environment trigger the release of histamine in your body which causes swelling, itching, and fluid to build up in the fragile linings of eyelids, nasal passages, and sinuses.
What triggers Rhinitis?
There are several causes of rhinitis but the most common are:
- Fluctuations in temperature
- Changes in the surrounding environment
- Pollen from flowers, grass, trees, and weeds
- Allergens like moulds, dust mites, cockroach waste and animal dander
- Hormonal changes
- Fumes, smoke and pungent odours
- Certain medicines and drugs including the overuse of nose sprays
- Certain foods or spices
What are the symptoms of Rhinitis?
It is important to look for the symptoms for proper diagnosis. Common symptoms of rhinitis include:
- Sneezing, stuffy and runny nose
- Itchy nose, eyes, ears, and throat
- Ear infections that keep coming back
Who all are at risk for Rhinitis?
People with asthma and breathing problems are at a higher risk for rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis might be linked with asthma as rhinitis makes it hard to breathe through the nose. Usually, breathing through the mouth does not filter or humidify the air before it enters the lungs which in return can make asthma symptoms worse.
According to many experts, controlling asthma may help control the allergic rhinitis in some of the patients.
Types of Rhinitis
There are two types of rhinitis- Allergic (seasonal) rhinitis or commonly known as 'hay fever' and non-allergic rhinitis or year-around rhinitis.
- Allergic rhinitis: It is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens such as pollen, dust mites or tiny flecks of skin and saliva shed by cats, dogs and other animals with fur or feathers (pet dander). It is commonly characterized by sneezing, running nose, body ache, and headache, itchy and watery eyes. The patients often feel itchiness in their skin as well.
Allergic rhinitis occurs in two different forms:
- Seasonal: If the symptoms occur in spring, summer and early fall, then it is known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. They are usually caused by allergens of airborne mould spores or by the pollens from grass, trees, and weeds.
- Perennial: If a patient experiences the symptoms round the year, then it is perennial allergic rhinitis. It is generally caused by dust mites, cockroaches or mould pet hair or dander. Some food and households allergies rarely cause perennial nasal symptoms.
Some patients experience both types of rhinitis, with perennial symptoms getting worse during specific pollen seasons. The symptoms can also be triggered by common irritants such as
- Cigarette smoke
- Strong odours such as perfume, or hair spray and fumes
- Laundry detergents
- Cleaning solutions
- Pool chlorine
- Car exhaust and other air pollutants (i.e., ozone)
Allergic rhinitis can be associated with:
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Limited activities
- Decreased decision-making capacity
- Impaired hand-eye coordination
- Problems remembering things
- Irritability and mood swings
- Sleep disorders
- Missed days of work or school
- More motor vehicle accidents
- Higher risks of school or work injuries
If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms and signs, try not to waste your time in domestic formulations; instead, consult an ENT surgeon/ allergist.
- Non-allergic rhinitis: The symptoms of the non-allergic rhinitis come and go-round the year. The patient may have constant symptoms or symptoms that last for a short span of time. The symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis may include:
- Mucus (phlegm) in the throat (postnasal drip)
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
It usually doesn’t cause itchy nose, throat, and eyes, unlike allergic rhinitis.
Though the exact cause of non-allergic rhinitis is unknown hitherto but many experts believe that it occurs when blood vessels in your nose expand or dilate while filling the nasal lining with fluid and blood. There are several things known to trigger non-allergic rhinitis but the most common ones include:
- Temperature or humidity changes
- Environmental or occupational irritants like dust, pungent odour (perfumes), smog and certain chemical fumes.
- Certain medications like aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others)
- Viral infections like common flu or a cold
- Certain foods (hot or spicy) and beverages (alcoholic)
- Hormonal changes due to menstruation, pregnancy or other conditions
**Non-allergic rhinitis can also be caused by sedatives, anti-depressants. In some cases, even oral contraceptives or drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction can cause non-allergic rhinitis, so you need to look out for the causes and it is advisable to consult a physician before taking in any such pills or medicines.
Risk factors involved
Common factors that may increase your risk of non-allergic rhinitis include:
- Frequent exposure to irritants
- Prolonged use of decongestant nasal drops or sprays
- Hormonal changes
- Occupational exposure to fumes (construction materials, chemicals, and solvents)
- Chronic health conditions
- Emotional or physical stress
Non-allergic rhinitis can cause certain complications including nasal polyps, middle ear infections, and sinusitis.
Rhinitis can be easily prevented with the help of some simple yet extremely effective preventive measures like:
- Areas where there is a heavy presence of dust, moulds and mites
- Things you're allergic to
You should also control your surrounding environment at home during Monsoons with the help of air conditioning and dehumidifiers.