According to recent studies completed in the U.S. more than 50 million Americans suffer from rhinitis.
Rhinitis is the medical term given to a runny or stuffy nose that won’t get better or the symptoms come back repeatedly. Rhinitis can be classified as follows;
Non-allergic (vasomotor) rhinitis
The linings of the nose become swollen due to inflammation. The mucus glands in the nose get stimulated, causing a congested, runny nose. Many things can trigger this nasal swelling such as;
- Environmental or occupational irritants – Dust, smog, chemical fumes, second hand smoke or strong odours such as perfumes.
- Weather changes – Temperature or humidity changes
- Infections – A viral infection such as the cold or flu is a common cause. This type of non-allergic rhinitis usually clears up within a few weeks but can cause lingering mucus in the throat (post nasal drip). Sometimes this type of rhinitis can become chronic, causing ongoing discoloured nasal discharges, facial pain and tenderness (sinusitis).
- Foods and beverages – Hot or spicy food, beer, wine and other alcohol and food types can cause nasal inflammation.
- Certain medications – Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as aspirin and ibuprofen and high blood pressure medications such as beta blockers. Sedatives, antidepressants, oral contraceptives and drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction can also cause it.
- Hormone changes – Changes in hormones due to pregnancy, menstruation, oral contraceptive use or a hormonal condition called hypothyroidism.
- Stress – Emotional or physical stress.
- Prolonged use of decongestant nasal drops or sprays – Using these for more than the recommended time (usually a few days) can cause more severe nasal congestion when the decongestant wears off, often called rebound congestion.
- Certain health problems – A number of chronic health conditions can cause or worsen rhinitis such as asthma, lupus, cystic fibrosis etc.
The symptoms include;
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion and difficulty breathing
- Sinus/facial pain
- Sinus/facial tenderness
- Sinus/facial pressure,
- Pain in teeth
- Pain in jaw
- Pain in ears,
- Pain through and around eyes
- Drainage of a thick yellow or green discharge from the nose or down the back of the throat (post nasal drip)
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Cough (which may be worse at night)
- Sore throat and halitosis (bad breath).
- Sleep disorders
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Chronic nose bleeds
- Perforated septum
- Dry/crusty nasal passages
- Rapid heart beat
Allergic rhinitis is an immune system disorder where the body over reacts to harmless substances in the environment such as pollen, dust, mold, danders and food. Allergy producing substances are called allergens.
Allergens cause the activation of a certain type of antibody known as IgE. This antibody triggers the release of certain chemicals from cells in your nose such as histamine, resulting in an extreme inflammatory response and the associated allergic rhinitis symptoms. The main causes of allergic rhinitis are as follows;
- Hereditary (runs in the family)
- Sex (boys have a higher risk of developing an allergy than girls)
- Alteration in exposure to infectious diseases during early childhood
- Environmental pollutants
- Allergen levels
- Dietary changes
The symptoms include;
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal itching
- Post nasal drip (mucous runs down the back of the throat)
- Sore throat
- Sleep disturbances and snoring
- Loss of taste and smell
- Poor concentration
- Natural nasal sprays – Natural nasal sprays such as SinuSoothe are doctor recommended and contain natural ingredients which relieve inflammation, nasal congestion, sinus pain, headaches, remove airborne irritants etc. In addition it contains natural anti-histamines that relieve a runny, itchy nose and sneezing etc. SinuSoothe can be used long term, is non addictive and has no side effects.
- Saline nasal sprays – Saline nasal sprays such as Sterimar may be useful for moisturising the nasal passages, removing airborne irritants and relieving nasal congestion. They can be either isotonic or hypertonic solutions. These can be used long term, have no side effects and are non-addictive. They are not particularly useful for reducing histamine associated with allergies.
- Nasal irrigation – A neti pot is used to irrigate the sinuses with either an isotonic or hypertonic solution. An isotonic solution has the same salt concentration as your body. A hypertonic solution has a higher salt content and may be more useful at drawing moisture and mucous from the sinuses. This may help reduce inflammation and relieve nasal congestion. It is a good practice for keeping your sinuses clean and removing irritants. It is completely safe provided you use the correct saline solution. However it usually has to be carried out in the home environment, is not convenient and many people either find the process difficult and/or don’t like it.
- Natural anti-histamines – Quercetin and butterbur can be just as effective as OTC anti-histamines but without their side effects. Stinging nettle can also reduce allergic reactions. Your local health food store should be able to advise you on these and others. It usually takes about 4 weeks for these to start taking effect.
- Reducing stress levels – Stress contributes to ill health and should be minimised whenever possible. It reduces immune function and causes ‘flare ups’. Vitamin B complex assists the body during stressful times and magnesium, 5htp etc. can help to relax you. There are also plenty of other supplements that can relieve stress and help you to cope with it better. Pressure is healthy, stress is not.
- Exercise – Exercise has been known to reduce allergy symptoms since the endorphins released during exercise act as natural painkillers. It can also improve immune function provided it is not over strenuous.
- Natural anti-inflammatories- Since the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic rhinitis are caused by inflammation it follows that by reducing inflammation you will reduce the severity of the symptoms. Omega 3,6 &9 oils, vitamin C, turmeric and ginger are all excellent natural anti-inflammatories. There are plenty of others and your local health food store should be able to advise you on these. It usually takes about 4 weeks for these to start taking effect.
- Pollen barriers – Pollen barriers such as special barrier gel inside the nostrils can catch pollen before it enters the nasal passages thus relieving hay fever symptoms.
Prevention of Hay fever
- Keeping doors and windows closed when the pollen count is high.
- Staying away from areas where there is more pollen such as grass parks, especially in the early morning, late afternoon and evening when the pollen count is highest.
- Wearing wrap around sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.
- Taking a shower and washing your hair after going outside when the pollen count is high.
- Not drying washing outside if pollen counts are high – pollen may get trapped in the fibres of clothes and bed linen.
Prevention of Allergic Rhinitis
The only way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid the allergen that causes it, so allergy testing is important to identify the exact indoor allergen that provokes the allergy.
- House dust mite eradication can help if special attention is paid to the bedroom.
- Synthetic duvets and pillows are better than feather fills.
- Old mattresses harbour up to 10,000 dust mites, so use mite impermeable barrier mattress covers.
- Wash pillow cases and covers at 60 degrees centigrade.
- Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter.
- Choose hardwood and laminate flooring, not heavy pile carpets.
- Discourage soft toys and clutter.
- Regularly air the bedroom to reduce humidity.
For severe pet allergies, unfortunately it’s best to remove the pet from the home permanently. Cat allergen spreads in the air throughout the home, even if the cat is restricted to specific areas. Although short haired and female pets carry less dander on their fur, any furry pets can trigger allergies including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils and mice.
For food allergies it is quite simply a case of eliminating the particular food causing the allergy from your diet.
For allergies caused by mold and/or fungus, any signs of these in your home environment should be completely removed.
Prevention of Non-Allergic Rhinitis
You should avoid whatever triggers your rhinitis such as strong odours, tobacco smoke etc. whenever it is practical to do so.
As with all medical conditions you should always consult your doctor before undertaking new treatments.