Rhinitis is the inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose caused by a virus, bacteria, irritants or allergens. There are three categories rhinitis can fall into: allergic, non-allergic or mixed. While each type may have its own causes, the symptoms are all similar.
A runny nose, congestion, sneezing and a post-nasal drip are all common symptoms of chronic rhinitis. A post-nasal drip is characterized by the feeling of liquid sliding down your throat, causing you to constantly clear your throat. Normally, the mucus from your nose mixes with the saliva from your throat, drips down the back of your throat and is swallowed—all without you noticing. Rhinitis causes the mucus to thicken, making it more noticeable.
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is caused by environmental allergies and can be seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergic rhinitis means you only experience these symptoms during specific seasons, depending on when certain plants bloom. Those who suffer form perennial allergic rhinitis experience their symptoms year-round. These are usually caused by indoor allergens such as mold, dust and pet dander.
Non-allergic rhinitis occurs when the blood vessels in your nose expand, filling the nasal lining with blood and fluid. Unlike allergic rhinitis, which is caused by something you are allergic to, non-allergic rhinitis can be caused by a number of factors. Changes in the weather, an infection, environmental irritants and even certain types of medications can cause non-allergic rhinitis.
Mixed chronic rhinitis is a combination of both allergic and non-allergic types. Typically, the cause of the allergic rhinitis will be treated first then the non-allergic rhinitis will be addressed.
The treatment for these conditions depends entirely on the cause of the symptoms. If environmental irritants, such as cigarette smoke, or allergens are causing the symptoms, the best treatment is avoidance. If avoidance is unrealistic, protecting your home from the allergens is your next best step. This can be done by changing your air filters and using dust mite-proof pillow and mattress covers.
If these steps do not alleviate you of your symptoms, medications should be considered. Steroid nasal sprays can be used for all types of rhinitis. Oral steroids, antihistamines and decongestants may also be used. Most of these are conveniently available over-the-counter.