What is rhinitis?
Rhinitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the nasal passage. Although many people use the word “allergies” to describe all of their nasal and sinus symptoms, there are many different causes besides allergies. Many individuals are affected by more than one cause at a time. Typical symptoms of rhinitis include:
What are the different causes of rhinitis?
1. Allergic rhinitis (hay-fever)
Allergic rhinitis refers to nasal inflammation caused by environmental allergies to things such as cats, dogs, dust mites, pollens, and molds. Itchy, water eyes are also common. Allergic rhinitis symptoms can occur seasonally, throughout the year, or both. Allergy testing will help determine what allergens may be triggering your symptoms.
- Trees- March, April and into May.
- Grass- May-June.
- Ragweed- Mid-August through September
- Weeds- Depending on the weeds, allergy symptoms can occur during the summer, spring, and fall
- Mold- Warm, damp weather favors mold growth. Mold typically first appears during the spring and increases significantly during the warmer months. Mold typically disappears following the first frost of the year.
- Dust mites- exposure is throughout the year- with increased exposure form upholstered furniture, primarily bed exposure
2. Non-allergic rhinitis (vaso-motor rhinitis)
For many people- exposure to environmental irritants can cause inflammation of the nasal passage. Common triggers include:
- Strong odors/ perfumes
- Weather changes
- Tobacco smoke
- Spicy foods
In these individuals, the nerves of the nasal and sinus passages are hypersensitive to many different changes in the environment. An analogy is the intense burning and watering of the eyes that can occur when cutting onions. Onions cause irritation of the eyes but this does not represent an actual allergy to onions. It is very common for people to have both allergic and non-allergic rhinitis triggers. Allergy skin testing and a detailed medical history can help distinguish between the two.
3. Anatomic / structural causes of rhinitis:
There are many structural or anatomic factors of the nasal and sinus passage that can cause rhinitis symptoms and include:
- Deviated nasal septum: the nasal septum is the cartilage that separates the left and right side of the nose and can be shifted over to one side or the other. Nasal congestion can be worse on one side if the septum is moved far enough over. A deviated septum can occur from trauma or during normal development. A relatively simple surgical procedure can correct a deviated septum that is causing significant nasal congestion that is worse on one side.
- Nasal polyps: nasal polyps are benign grape-like growths that block the nasal and sinus passages. Nasal congestion and post-nasal drainage can be severe and can often cause a decreased sense of smell.
- Adenoids: the adenoids are tonsil-like tissue found behind the nose. Adenoids typically begin increasing in size between 2-6 years of age. Adenoid enlargement is common during childhood and can occur in response to repeated upper respiratory infections or from allergies.
- Common cold: frequent colds can sometimes be confused with allergies. Colds will typically last 7-10 days and are often accompanied by yellow or green nasal discharge. Allergic rhinitis, however, is typically associated with clear nasal discharge.
- Acute bacterial sinusitis: acute sinusitis causes nasal symptoms similar to allergies and the common cold. In contrast to allergies, thick yellowish/ green nasal drainage is typical. It is often difficult to distinguish between an acute sinus infection caused by a bacteria and the common cold, which is caused by a respiratory virus. Often the severity and duration of the symptoms can help distinguish between a bacterial and viral upper respiratory infection. Both can have discolored nasal drainage. Because of this difficulty, many doctors will wait 7-10 days before treating with an antibiotic.
- Chronic sinus infections are a relatively common cause of persistent nasal symptoms. Patients may have very obvious symptoms such as thick yellow/green nasal discharge or post-nasal drainage. Sometimes, however, a CAT scan of the sinuses is needed to help identify a chronic sinus infection. Untreated chronic sinus infections can last for many months or longer. Treating chronic nasal inflammation from allergies can help prevent chronic sinus infections.
Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever) Relief and Treatment
Clarity Allergy Center provides comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) in the Chicago-land area. In addition to serving the Chicago area, Clarity Allergy Center has an office in Arlington Heights and conveniently serves the following surrounding areas:
Morton Grove, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Evanston, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Niles, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Elk Grove, Buffalo Grove, Bartlett, Lake Zurich, Schaumburg, and Elgin.