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Common Questions - Non-Allergic Rhinitis

What causes non-allergic rhinitis?

Non-allergic rhinitis happens when the lining of the inside of the nose becomes swollen and inflamed. The reason why some people develop non-allergic rhinitis is not known. However, the condition can be triggered by many things, including:

  • infection - such as a viral infection like a cold
  • environmental irritants - such as smoke, perfume or paint fumes
  • medicines and recreational drugs - including beta blockers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • overuse of nasal decongestants - using decongestants for longer than five to seven days at a time can cause the lining of your nose to swell up
  • hormone imbalance - such as during pregnancy or puberty
  • nasal tissue damage - including after nose surgery

What are the symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis?

Symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis can include:

  • a blocked nose
  • a runny nose
  • sneezing
  • mild irritation or discomfort in and around your nose
  • a reduced sense of smell
  • a crust inside the nose - this may produce a foul-smelling odour or bleed if you try to remove it

What’s the difference between allergic and non-allergic rhinitis?

Allergic and non-allergic rhinitis both describe an inflammation of the lining of the nose. However, allergic rhinitis is caused by a substance, such as pollen, that triggers an allergy. Non-allergic rhinitis is not caused by an allergy.

Should I avoid any foods if I have non-allergic rhinitis?

Some people, typically the elderly, can develop a type of non-allergic rhinitis that is triggered by eating, especially hot and spicy foods. This is called gustatory rhinitis and it causes your nose to start running around two hours after eating. In this case, avoiding hot and spicy foods may help to improve your symptoms.

Some food preservatives or dyes can also cause gustatory rhinitis.

If you have sensitive nasal blood vessels, you may develop a type of rhinitis called vasomotor rhinitis. In this condition, chemical irritants or changes in the weather can cause your nose to run.

Keeping a diary of when your rhinitis symptoms appear may help you to identify if specific foods are causing your symptoms. Speak to your doctor before removing any foods from your diet.

Is non-allergic rhinitis hereditary?

Many things can trigger non-allergic rhinitis, but the reason why some people develop non-allergic rhinitis is not known.

Can non-allergic rhinitis be cured?

As the reason why some people develop non-allergic rhinitis is not known, it is not clear if non-allergic rhinitis can be cured. However, you can treat non-allergic rhinitis by treating the cause. This can include:

  • avoiding triggers
  • changing your medicines (after checking with your doctor)
  • using nasal rinses or sprays
  • stopping overused nasal decongestant sprays

How can I treat non-allergic rhinitis naturally?

You can naturally treat non-allergic rhinitis by treating the cause. This usually involves natural methods, such as:

  • avoiding triggers - stay away from smoky or polluted places
  • changing your medicines - see your doctor before making any changes to your existing medicines
  • using nasal rinses or sprays - salt water solutions can be used to rinse your nasal passages
  • stopping overused nasal decongestant sprays

If your symptoms are caused by a viral infection, you may not need any treatment as the infection usually goes away on its own within one to two weeks.

What’s the best nasal spray for non-allergic rhinitis?

Different nasal sprays can help to improve the symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis. These sprays may be bought from a pharmacy without a prescription. They include:

  • antihistamine nasal sprays – relieve congestion and a runny nose by reducing inflammation
  • steroid nasal sprays – reduce inflammation
  • anticholinergic nasal sprays – reduce the amount of mucus your nose produces and relieve a runny nose
  • decongestant nasal sprays – relieve congestion by reducing swelling of the nose blood vessels

Nasal sprays are not suitable for everyone. Read the leaflet that comes with them or speak with a pharmacist to make sure you can use them safely.

Always read the manufacturer's instructions to see how to correctly use these sprays.

Do not use decongestant sprays for longer than five to seven days at a time because overusing them can make congestion worse.

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.

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