Health Information


What is rhinitis?

Rhinitis is a reaction that happens in the eyes, nose, and throat when allergens in the air trigger the release of histamine in the body. Histamine causes itching, swelling, and fluid to build up in the fragile linings of nasal passages, sinuses, and eyelids.

There are two types of rhinitis: allergic or seasonal rhinitis and nonallergic or year-round rhinitis.

What causes rhinitis?

The most common causes of rhinitis are:

  • Pollen given off by trees, grass, and weeds
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Cockroach waste
  • Animal dander
  • Fumes and odors
  • Temperature
  • Hormonal changes
  • Certain medicines and overuse of topical nose sprays
  • Changes in the environment
  • Smoke
  • Certain foods or spices 

Who is at risk for rhinitis?

People with asthma are at a higher risk for rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is a common problem that may be linked to asthma. However, this link is not fully understood. Experts think that since rhinitis makes it hard to breathe through the nose, it is harder for the nose to work normally. Breathing through the mouth does not warm, filter, or humidify the air before it enters the lungs. This can make asthma symptoms worse.

Controlling asthma may help control allergic rhinitis in some patients.

What are the symptoms of rhinitis?

Symptoms of rhinitis include:

  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy nose, throat, eyes, and ears
  • Nosebleeds
  • Clear drainage from the nose
  • Ear infections that keep coming back
  • Snoring
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Tiredness

How is rhinitis diagnosed?

Most often, the diagnosis is made by your health care provider based on an in-depth history and physical exam. In addition to the above signs, the health care provider may find:

  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Creases under the eyes
  • Swollen tissues inside the nose
  • Mouth breathing

How is rhinitis treated?

Avoidance of the allergens that are causing the problem is the best treatment. Your health care provider will find the best treatment for you based on:

  • Your age
  • Your overall health and medical history
  • How sick you are
  • How well you can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • How long the condition is expected to last
  • Your opinion or preference

The symptoms of rhinitis sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

Treatments for rhinitis may include:

  • Antihistamines
  • Nose sprays
  • Decongestants
  • Medicines for asthma symptoms
  • Allergy shots
  • Surgery for some health problems

Can rhinitis be prevented?

Preventive measures for avoiding allergic rhinitis include:

  • Avoiding areas where there is heavy dust, mites, or molds
  • Avoiding pets
  • Avoiding what you know you are allergic to
  • Controls in your environment, such as air conditioning during pollen season

Key points about rhinitis

  • Rhinitis is a reaction that happens in the eyes, nose, and throat when allergens in the air trigger histamine to be released in the body. There are two types of rhinitis: allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis.
  • Some of the most common causes of rhinitis are pollen, dust mites, mold, cockroach waste, animal dander, fumes and odors, hormonal changes, and smoke.
  • Symptoms of rhinitis include: sneezing, stuffy, runny, and itchy nose, and itchy throat, eyes, and ears, nosebleeds, clear drainage from the nose, ear infections that keep coming back, snoring, breathing through the mouth, and tiredness.
  • Treatment for rhinitis includes: medicines, allergy shots, and surgery for some health problems
  • Preventive measures for rhinitis include avoiding what you are allergic to.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.