What’s Non-Allergic Rhinitis?
Non-allergic rhinitis (vasomotor rhinitis) is a condition that causes chronic sneezing, congestion, or runny nose. While these symptoms are similar to those of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), non-allergic rhinitis is different because, unlike an allergy, it doesn’t involve the immune system. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance known as an allergen.
Airborne pollutants or odors, certain foods or beverages, some medications, changes in the weather or underlying chronic health problems can all trigger symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis. These symptoms can come and go or be constant.
Symptoms of Non-Allergic Rhinitis
The symptoms associated with non-allergic rhinitis vary from patient to patient. Those with this condition may experience symptoms on and off throughout the year, in any season.
While symptoms vary, the most common symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis are:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Postnasal Drip
Unlike the allergic form, non-allergic rhinitis rarely causes an itchy nose, eyes, or throat.
Several things in a patient’s environment can trigger non-allergic rhinitis, including:
- Environmental irritants: Irritants such as dust, pollution, smoke, or even perfumes can trigger this condition. For some workers, chemical irritants in an industrial environment can also be a trigger.
- Weather: Changes in temperature or humidity levels can affect the delicate membranes within the nose, triggering rhinitis symptoms.
- Viruses: This is the most common trigger of non-allergic rhinitis and manifests as the “common cold.”
- Foods and beverages: Some patients can have a non-allergic reaction to spice foods or alcohol, triggering symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis.
- Certain medications: Finally, some patients may experience non-allergic rhinitis in response to some medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, and beta-blockers. In rare cases, patients who overuse decongestant nasal sprays may form a subtype of the condition known as rhinitis medicamentosa.
Treatment Options for Non-Allergic Rhinitis
It is essential to have an accurate diagnosis so you can manage your condition appropriately. Physicians often recommend allergy testing to rule out allergic rhinitis because the symptoms are so similar.
Non-allergic rhinitis is not curable, but many people find relief by avoiding triggers, using a saline rinse solution, or taking over the counter or prescription medications.
Treating non-allergic rhinitis can involve several interventions, including:
- Nasal sprays: Patients can use an OTC saline nasal spray or make a saltwater solution at home. These solutions clean irritants from the nasal cavity, soothe the nose’s sensitive membranes, and thin out mucus.
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays: In some cases, a doctor may wish to prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays that help address inflammation. There are also OTC versions of these medications available, including Nasacort and Flonase. These medications can come with some possible side effects, including dryness, headaches, and nosebleeds.
- Antihistamine nasal sprays: Even though allergens do not trigger non-allergic rhinitis, prescription antihistamine nasal sprays, including Astepro and Patanase, can sometimes be used to treat it. Oral antihistamines do not have the same therapeutic effect that these nasal sprays do.
- Anti-drip anticholinergic nasal sprays: Asthma inhaler medications, including the prescription drug, Ipratropium, can also help treat some cases of non-allergic rhinitis. It comes in nasal spray form and is best for treating non-allergic rhinitis with a runny nose as its main symptom. Possible side effects include dryness in the nasal cavity and nosebleeds.
- Decongestants: OTC and prescription decongestants, such as Sudafed or phenylephrine, are also treatment options for non-allergic rhinitis. Decongestants work by narrowing blood vessels in the nose to reduce congestion. These interventions can also come with some possible side effects, including increased blood pressure and restlessness.
There are many effective treatments for non-allergic rhinitis. Working in close consultation with a doctor can help patients develop the most effective treatment plan.