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Last full review/revision Sep 2020| Content last modified Sep 2020
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Topic Resources

What is rhinitis?

"Rhin-" refers to your nose, and "itis" means inflammation. So rhinitis is inflammation and swelling inside your nose.

  • Rhinitis is usually caused by a cold or seasonal allergies

  • You'll have a runny nose, sneezing, and stuffiness

  • Rhinitis usually goes away on its own, but doctors may have you take antihistamines

  • If allergies cause you to get rhinitis often, you may need allergy shots

What causes rhinitis?

Rhinitis can be caused by:

  • An allergic reaction to something, such as dust, mold, pollen, grass, trees, and animals (allergic rhinitis)

  • An infection, such as the common cold

  • Breathing very dry or dirty air

Older people sometimes have thinning and hardening of the lining of their nose tissue, which causes rhinitis.

What are the symptoms of rhinitis?

Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose

  • Stuffy nose

  • Sneezing

You may have other symptoms too, depending on what caused your rhinitis. If it was caused by allergies, you may have itchy, watery eyes. If your rhinitis came from a cold, you may have a sore throat and cough.

How can doctors tell if I have rhinitis?

Doctors can tell if you have rhinitis based on your symptoms.

How do doctors treat rhinitis?

Treatment depends on what's causing your rhinitis.

If an allergy is causing your rhinitis, doctors will have you avoid what you're allergic to. They'll treat you with:

  • Corticosteroid nasal spray

  • Antihistamine pills

  • Sometimes, allergy shots

Doctors may treat other types of rhinitis with:

  • Ointment in your nose

  • Nasal decongestants (sprays or pills)

  • Flushing water through your nose (nasal irrigation)

  • Humidifier or vaporizer to make the air in your home more humid

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