Chronic rhinitis is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages, resulting in symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and postnasal drip.
While the cause of chronic rhinitis can vary from person to person, several factors have been identified as potential triggers.
This article will explore the various causes of chronic rhinitis and discuss possible treatment options for managing this condition.
What is Rhinitis?
Rhinitis is the inflammation of the mucus membrane lining your nasal cavity. It can be caused by allergies, bacterial infections, or viral infections. However, allergic rhinitis is the most common type of rhinitis.
What is Chronic Rhinitis?
Rhinitis becomes chronic when the inflammation in your nasal cavity lasts for more than 12 weeks. Acute rhinitis is short-lived, lasting a few days and sometimes extending to 4 weeks before going away.
Acute or chronic rhinitis is often classified into allergic or non-allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis is also referred to as hay fever.
As the name suggests, this occurs when an allergen triggers the immune system, leading to an allergic reaction.
This refers to the rhinitis that occurs without the presence of an allergen.
It commonly involves things like infections, underlying medical conditions, or structural abnormalities. Non-allergic Rhinitis represents about 25% of all cases.
Determining which type of rhinitis you have is easy since you can easily tell from your symptoms and exposure to triggers.
If you’re unsure of your type, your doctor will ask some questions about your medical history and symptoms and perform a few tests.
Knowing what you’re allergic to or what’s causing the rhinitis is important to allow you to avoid future episodes.
Causes of Allergic Chronic Rhinitis
When you inhale or come into contact with an allergen like dust or pollen, the immune system perceives it as harmful and launches an attack against it. This involves the release of chemicals such as histamines into the bloodstream.
These chemicals cause the blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow to the affected areas like the nasal passages and the eyes, causing inflammation and irritation.
Symptoms occur when the inflammation results in the swelling of the nasal passages leading to congestion and difficulty breathing through the nose.
One may also experience sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose, and itchy eyes, throat, and ears.
In severe cases, allergic rhinitis can disturb your sleep pattern and cause irritability or fatigue.
In most cases, allergic rhinitis is seasonal but can occur all year round, depending on the type of allergen that triggers it.
1. Allergic Causes of Chronic Rhinitis
Several allergens can trigger Chronic Rhinitis in susceptible individuals. Common ones include:
Pollen is the powdery substance produced by trees, grasses, and weeds during reproduction. If you’re allergic to pollen, coming into contact with it can trigger an immune response leading to chronic rhinitis. The severity may vary from one individual to another or one type of pollen to the other.
Dust mites are tiny organisms that live in household dust. They thrive in warm, humid environments like carpets and bedding. If you often struggle with chronic rhinitis, airing carpets and bedding regularly can lower the risk of dust mites.
Mold is a fungus that often grows in damp and dark areas like basements. It can also grow on spoilt food. Exposure to mold spores can trigger an allergic response that can prolong if necessary changes are not made to eradicate the mold.
Danders are small flakes or particles that shade from an animal’s skin or hair. Common animals include cats and dogs. Rabbits and hamsters can also cause a problem.
Cockroach droppings are another common cause of allergic rhinitis.
When cockroaches defecate, they release small particles into the air, which can cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to them.
2. Nonallergic Causes of Chronic Rhinitis
While allergies are the most common causes of Chronic rhinitis, there are nonallergic causes that can also play a role. These may include:
Exposure to certain environmental irritants like smoke, fumes, and other irritants in the air can trigger the immune system of some individuals leading to chronic inflammation of the nasal passages even if you do not have allergies.
Hormonal imbalances such as during pregnancy, menstruation, use of birth control pills, or hypothyroidism can trigger nonallergic chronic rhinitis.
Infections can also contribute to rhinitis by triggering inflammation in the nasal cavity.
The most common infections that can cause nonallergic rhinitis are those affecting the upper respiratory system.
Common colds, for example, can cause congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. A sinus infection can also cause these symptoms, as well as headaches, fever, and facial pain. Viral infections like flu can also trigger nonallergic rhinitis.
This can also be referred to as drug-induced nonallergic rhinitis. Common ones include blood pressure medications like beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, aspirin, ibuprofen, and some sedatives.
Hot or spicy foods
Hot spicy foods are a staple in many cuisines around the world. They add flavor and excitement to dishes but can also cause unpleasant side effects like rhinitis.
Hot spices like chili peppers contain capsaicin which can irritate the mucous membrane in the nose and throat, leading to symptoms of rhinitis.
Changes in weather or humidity can trigger swelling of the nasal mucosa, which can lead to a runny or stuffy nose.
3. Structural abnormalities
Structural abnormalities in the nose can also contribute to the development of chronic rhinitis.
The nose has a thin piece of cartilage (nasal septum) that separates the left and right nostrils. In some people, this septum may be deviated or crooked due to genetics or trauma. This can cause one nostril to be larger than the other or obstructed entirely.
A deviated septum can disrupt airflow through the nose and lead to persistent congestion on one side or both sides of the nose.
This obstruction can also create an environment within the nasal cavity that promotes inflammation and increases susceptibility to infections.
Another structural abnormality that can cause chronic rhinitis is enlarged turbinates. Turbinates are bony structures located inside each nostril covered in mucous membranes that warm and humidify inhaled air before it reaches your lungs.
When these turbinates become swollen due to allergies or other irritants, they take up more space inside your nose causing difficulty breathing through your nostrils.
Additionally, polyps – small growths within the lining of your sinuses –can also lead to chronic rhinitis if they grow large enough to block airways leading into and out of your sinuses.
4. Chronic sinusitis
Chronic sinusitis is a condition that occurs when the tissue lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed and swollen for more than 12 weeks. The symptoms of chronic sinusitis include nasal congestion, postnasal drip, facial pain or pressure, headaches, and difficulty breathing through the nose.
One of the potential complications of chronic sinusitis is chronic allergic rhinitis. At the same time, chronic rhinitis can also result in chronic sinusitis.
When someone has chronic sinusitis, their sinuses become blocked and congested with mucus. This increased mucus production can lead to a buildup of allergens in the nasal passages over time.
These allergens trigger an immune response in the body that leads to symptoms similar to those associated with seasonal allergies.
Symptoms of chronic rhinitis
Both allergic and nonallergic rhinitis may share some symptoms, while others may stand alone.
Common symptoms include
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy eyes, nose, and throat (allergic rhinitis)
- Bluish discoloration under the lower eyelid ( allergic rhinitis)
- Seasonal (allergic rhinitis)
- Can occur all year round (nonallergic)
Without proper treatment and avoidance of triggers, chronic rhinitis may give rise to other conditions, such as:
Sinusitis: inflammation of the mucus membrane lining the sinuses
Nasal polyps: noncancerous growths that develop on your nasal cavity lining due to chronic inflammation.
Frequent middle ear infections occur due to frequent congestion that may create a favorable environment for an infection to develop. This infection can then spread to the ear canal.
How is Chronic Rhinitis Treated?
Treatment mainly depends on the underlying cause. If the cause is allergic, for example, avoiding the triggers will promote a fast recovery and prevent further symptoms. If it’s due to pregnancy, the symptoms will go away once you give birth.
So treatment is quite relative.
That said, some treatments may help relieve active symptoms by reducing inflammation in the nasal cavity.
These may include over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed medications, including antihistamines, corticosteroid nasal sprays, saline nasal sprays, immunology, and mast cell stabilizers.
Pregnant women may, however, need to consult their healthcare provider as some of these medications may be contraindicated in pregnancy
In the case of structural issues, surgery may be recommended.
Lifestyle changes can also play a bigger role in avoiding triggers and promoting recovery.
- Avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible
- Use an air purifier with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter
- Keep windows closed when pollen counts are high
- Keep your pets groomed at all times
- Put on a mask when working in an environment that increases your exposure to allergens, like gardening, swiping, mowing the lawn, or dusting surfaces
- Change your heating and air conditioning filters often
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Get dust-mite-proof pillows
- Wash your bedding weekly in hot water
- Take showers after being outside.
Home Remedies for Chronic Rhinitis
While there are several medications available for treating chronic rhinitis, many people prefer natural remedies as they are less expensive and have minimal side effects. Here are some effective natural remedies for chronic rhinitis:
1. Saline Nasal Rinse
A saline nasal rinse involves flushing the nasal passages with a solution made up of salt and water. This helps to thin mucus and remove irritants from the nose, reducing inflammation and congestion. You can use a neti pot or squeeze bottle to irrigate your nostrils with saline solution.
2. Steam Inhalation
Inhaling steam helps to moisten the nasal passages, reduce inflammation, and loosen mucus in the sinuses. To enhance its effectiveness, you can add essential oils like eucalyptus or peppermint oil.
3. Ginger Tea
Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that make it an excellent natural remedy for chronic rhinitis. Drinking ginger tea regularly can help reduce congestion and relieve sinus pressure.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has potent anti-inflammatory effects that make it an effective treatment for chronic rhinitis symptoms. Adding turmeric powder to your meals or taking supplements containing curcumin may be helpful.
5. Honey and Lemon Juice
Honey and lemon juice is a popular home remedy for chronic rhinitis. The combination of these two ingredients is thought to help reduce congestion and inflammation in the nose.
Honey is a natural anti-inflammatory agent, while lemon juice is a natural decongestant. Together, they may help to clear the nasal passages and reduce symptoms of chronic rhinitis.
6. Use a humidifier at home
Using a humidifier in your home can help ease your symptoms. This is because dry air can aggravate the symptoms of chronic rhinitis, so by adding moisture to the air, you can help to reduce congestion and irritated sinuses. Just be sure to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
7. Drink enough fluids
This will help thin out mucus and prevent dehydration. Drink eight to ten glasses of water or other clear fluids every day.
You can also drink herbal teas, such as chamomile or peppermint, to help soothe your throat and reduce congestion. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can worsen symptoms.
Chronic rhinitis is a common condition that affects many people around the world. There are various causes of this condition, including environmental factors such as pollution and allergens, as well as underlying medical conditions.
Treatment options for chronic rhinitis vary depending on the cause and severity of symptoms. It is important to seek medical attention if you experience persistent nasal congestion or other related symptoms to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.
With proper management and care, most individuals with chronic rhinitis can lead a healthy life free from bothersome symptoms.
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