Nonallergic Rhinitis

What is Nonallergic Rhinitis?

Nonallergic Rhinitis is the term used to describe a combination of symptoms resembling an allergic reaction that cannot be linked to a specific cause.  It is a very common condition, with as much as 25% of the adult population exhibiting symptoms. Oftentimes, the condition can only be confirmed after the possibility of other medical issues has been ruled out.

In some cases, however, a trigger can in fact be pinpointed. The most common causes are environmental elements including chlorine, car exhaust, cleaning solutions, cigarette smoke, latex, perfume, smog, hair spray, wood dust, and laundry detergents. Likewise, various medications such as antidepressants, NSAIDs, tranquilizers, ACE inhibitors, and oral contraceptives have been identified as catalysts. Other patients find their triggers in spicy foods, alcoholic drinks, changes in the weather, illegal drug use, or hormonal changes.

What are the Symptoms of Nonallergic Rhinitis?

Because there is often no identified cause, symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis can come and go throughout the year. Sometimes they can interfere to the point where it leads to decreased productivity at work or school and numerous doctor visits. Patients frequently report experiencing:

  • Postnasal drip
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Asthma
  • Loss of smell
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic ear infection

Nonallergic Rhinitis Causes

When chronic symptoms of sneezing, congestion, or a runny nose are not caused by an allergic reaction, the diagnosis may be nonallergic rhinitis (including vasomotor or idiopathic rhinitis, gustatory rhinitis, drug-induced rhinitis, and hormonal rhinitis). The exact cause of nonallergic rhinitis is unknown, but doctors do know what happens as a response – the blood vessels in the nose dilate, which fills the nasal lining with fluid. Many triggers have been identified, which cause the onset of nonallergic rhinitis symptoms.

Possible Nonallergic Rhinitis Causes:

  • Infections, such as viruses that cause colds and flu
  • Changes in the weather, including temperature and humidity shifts
  • Airborne particulate matter, such as dust, smog, and smoke
  • Chemical fumes and strong odors, including perfumes
  • Some foods, particularly hot and spicy food
  • Beverages that cause the nasal membranes to swell (for example, alcoholic drinks)
  • Some medications, including aspirin, ibuprofen, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, chlorpromazine, and other hypertension (high blood pressure) medications
  • Chronic health problems
  • Pregnancy and menstrual cycles, which cause a shift in hormones, can also cause nonallergic rhinitis

There’s no definitive method of preventing nonallergic rhinitis, but there are ways that may help prevent flare-ups.

How is Nonallergic Rhinitis Treated?

There is no cure for nonallergic rhinitis. However, various therapies can help control it. The most effective method is to avoid rhinitis triggers altogether. In some cases, of course, that is not an option. These patients can employ home remedies like using a humidifier and nasal irrigation with a saline solution in conjunction with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Doctors may prescribe nasal antihistamines or glucocorticoids or sometimes both. Decongestants may help but are recommended as a last resort. Allergy shots are not an effective method for treating the condition. In more severe cases, surgery may be used to correct a deviate septum or remove nasal polyps to improve the condition.

Nonallergic Rhinitis Prevention

Research shows that children who eat oily fish at least once a week or some types of polyunsaturated fatty acids may have a reduced risk of developing nonallergic rhinitis. Recommended types of fish include salmon, herring, and mackerel. Adults who know what triggers nonallergic rhinitis may be able to avoid these triggers and prevent future occurrences. Using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that remove particles from the air, and gas-phase air filters that remove fumes and odors, can help reduce indoor pollution, which can trigger nonallergic rhinitis. If the air in your home or office is dry, use a humidifier to keep nasal passages hydrated. Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation (or not at all). Avoid taking medications that may have triggered nonallergic rhinitis in the past.