Nonallergic Rhinitis

Topic Overview

What is nonallergic rhinitis?

Rhinitis is inflammation and swelling in the nose. It is often triggered by an allergy.

Nonallergic rhinitis is the term used for rhinitis that has no known cause. It may also be called vasomotor rhinitis.

What causes rhinitis?

Triggers that can cause inflammation and swelling in the nose include:

  • Infection with a virus (viral or post-viral rhinitis).
  • Changes in the weather.
  • Dry air.
  • Polluted air, such as from fumes, smoke, odors, and perfumes.
  • Spicy food or drink.
  • Certain medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and hormones.
  • Hormone changes in the body (such as rhinitis of pregnancy).
  • Alcohol use.
  • Aging.

What are the symptoms?

Rhinitis symptoms can be long-lasting. Or they can come and go. They can include:

  • Runny nose.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Drainage down the back of the throat from the nose and sinuses. (This drainage is called postnasal drip.)
  • Sneezing.

Nonallergic rhinitis symptoms do not include allergic rhinitis symptoms. Allergy can cause watery, itchy eyes or itchy ears, nose, roof of the mouth, or throat.

How is nonallergic rhinitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Your doctor will want to know how and when your symptoms started and what has made them worse or better.

Your doctor may want to do allergy testing.

How can you treat it?

You can take simple measures to help relieve your nonallergic rhinitis symptoms.

  • Try to avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
  • Use saline (salt water) to rinse your nasal passages once or twice a day. Then blow your nose. You can use:
    • A saline nasal spray. It's easy and quick to use, and you can find it in any drugstore.
    • A neti pot or bulb syringe to stream salt water into one nostril and out the other. (To make a saline rinse, add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 2 cups of distilled water.)
  • Use a prescription or over-the-counter nasal medicine, as recommended by your doctor. Different types that might be helpful include antihistamine, corticosteroid, decongestant, and capsaicin nasal sprays.

If your doctor recommends medicine to relieve symptoms, make sure to take it exactly as prescribed. For example, take a decongestant spray for no more than 3 or 4 days. Longer use can make symptoms worse. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.


Current as of: December 2, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology

Nonallergic Rhinitis