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Nonallergic rhinitis

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 14, 2023.

Overview

Nonallergic rhinitis involves sneezing or a stuffy, drippy nose. It can be a long-term problem, and it has no clear cause. The symptoms are like those of hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis. But nonallergic rhinitis isn't caused by allergies.

Nonallergic rhinitis can affect children and adults. But it's more common after age 20. Factors that trigger the symptoms vary from person to person. The triggers can include some:

Health care providers often first make sure a person's symptoms aren't caused by allergies. So you may need skin or blood tests to find out if you have allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms

Nonallergic rhinitis symptoms often come and go year-round. Your symptoms might include:

Nonallergic rhinitis most often doesn't cause an itchy nose, eyes or throat. That symptom is linked with allergies such as hay fever.

When to see a doctor

See your health care provider if you:

Causes

The exact cause of nonallergic rhinitis is unknown.

But experts do know that nonallergic rhinitis happens when blood vessels in the nose expand. These blood vessels fill the tissue that lines the inside of the nose. Many things could cause this. For instance, the nerve endings in the nose might react to triggers too easily.

But any cause brings on the same result: swelling inside the nose, congestion or lots of mucus.

Triggers of nonallergic rhinitis can include:

Risk factors

Things that can make you more likely to get nonallergic rhinitis include:

Complications

Nonallergic rhinitis might be linked to:

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are soft, noncancerous growths on the lining of the nose or sinuses. They often occur in groups, like grapes on a stem.

Healthy sinuses

Sinuses are cavities around nasal passages. If the sinuses become inflamed and swollen, a person may develop sinusitis.

Prevention

If you have nonallergic rhinitis, take steps to ease your symptoms and prevent flare-ups:

Diagnosis

Your health care provider will likely give you a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms. You'll need tests to find out if something other than nonallergic rhinitis is causing your symptoms.

You may have nonallergic rhinitis if:

In some cases, your provider might have you try a medicine to see whether your symptoms get better.

Checking for allergies

Allergies often cause symptoms such as sneezing and a stuffy, runny nose. Some tests can help make sure that your symptoms aren't caused by an allergy. You may need skin or blood tests.

Sometimes, symptoms may be caused by both allergic and nonallergic triggers.

Checking for sinus problems

Your provider also will want to find out if your symptoms are due to a sinus problem. You might need an imaging test to check your sinuses.

Treatment

Treatment of nonallergic rhinitis depends on how much it bothers you. Home treatment and staying away from triggers might be enough for mild cases. Medicines may ease worse symptoms. These include:

Your health care provider may suggest surgery to treat other problems that can happen with nonallergic rhinitis. For example, growths in the nose called polyps may need to be removed. Surgery also can fix a problem where the thin wall between the passages in the nose is off-center or crooked. This is called a deviated septum.

Self care

Try these tips to ease the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis:

Neti pot

A neti pot is a container designed to rinse the nasal cavity.

Alternative medicine

Some small studies of nonallergic rhinitis have looked into the substance that gives hot peppers their heat, called capsaicin. These studies suggest that using capsaicin inside the nose can ease congestion. But it also can irritate the nose and cause side effects such as burning, sneezing and coughing. More research is needed to find out how much capsaicin to use and for how long.

Some studies also have looked at an alternative treatment in which thin, sterile needles are placed in the body. This is called acupuncture. It's been used to ease pain and other problems. But some experts recommend not using acupuncture for nonallergic rhinitis.

Preparing for your appointment

If you have nonallergic rhinitis symptoms, here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment.

What you can do

When you make the appointment, ask your health care provider's office if there's anything you need to do ahead of time. For example, you might be told not to take medicine for congestion before the appointment.

Make a list of:

For nonallergic rhinitis symptoms, some basic questions to ask your provider include:

Feel free to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your provider is likely to ask you questions, including:

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