Rhinitis is often confused with hay fever. Symptoms are the same, but unlike the latter condition, are not caused by allergens. For this reason and to ease confusion, it is often referred to as nonallergic rhinitis.

Symptoms of Nonallergic Rhinitis

When you suffer from nonallergic rhinitis, you’ll have symptoms similar to a cold or hay fever. These include stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and postnasal drip. The easiest way to tell it apart from hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is through the absence of itchy eyes, nose, and throat. Symptoms may persist indefinitely, or come and go.

Rhinitis is caused by dilated blood vessels in the nose. This can be triggered by a number of different factors including viral or bacterial infections (i.e. colds or flu), environmental irritants (dust, smog, cigarette smoke, perfume), changes in the weather (swings in temperature or humidity), foods and beverages (hot or spicy foods, alcohol), medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, beta blockers, sedatives, antidepressants), stress, and hormone changes.


Nonallergic rhinitis is a nuisance and, unless treated promptly, can lead to nasal polyps, sinusitis, ear infections, and other chronic diseases. Diagnosis involves a physical exam, including allergy testing to rule out allergens as a cause, and may include a nasal endoscopy, CT scan, or X-rays to check for nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or other structural abnormalities.

If symptoms aren’t too bothersome, you may find success with home treatment. Use a neti pot or bulb syringe to irrigate the nasal passages and keep them moist. A humidifier or vaporizer to moisten the air may also help. Antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroid nasal sprays can all assist in symptom relief. Stay away from known irritants such as cigarette smoke.

Surgery may be an option if a physical abnormality is to blame for nonallergic rhinitis.