Rhinitis is a horrible sounding name for a very common problem. Chances are good that you have had rhinitis if you have had sneezes and sniffles. There are 3 types: viral rhinitis (the common cold), nonallergic rhinitis, and allergic rhinitis. Many of the aggravating symptoms are the same, and prevention and avoidance is key to dealing with all three types. However, long-lasting symptoms must not be taken lightly since they can lead to complications such as asthma, sinusitis, and skin conditions.
Viral Rhinitis (The Common Cold)
There are more than 100 viruses that can cause a common cold. One way to know it is a cold is that you usually start to feel better a week or two after coming down with the first symptoms. If you don't seem to be getting better, your symptoms could be due to nonallergic or allergic rhinitis. Children are especially vulnerable to viral rhinitis because it is easily spread in the school setting. If you have children, then you are also more vulnerable. If symptoms last more than two weeks, you may need to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms vary but can include:
- runny or stuffy nose
- itchy or sore throat
- slight body aches or a mild headache
- watery eyes
- low-grade fever
- mild fatigue
What to do:
- Wash Hands. Wash often, especially after being in public places or before eating. Teach children to wash their hands at school.
- Sanitize Surfaces.
Use a broad spectrum disinfectant to wipe surfaces where germs could lurk. Don't forget the doorknobs and handles around the house.
- Don't Share. Do not eat or drink after others, even family members.
- Avoid People With Colds. Try to stay away or move away from people with cold symptoms. Look at the health practices and sickness frequency when choosing a child care center. Wear a mask if you must be around people with colds or in close quarters such as on airplanes.
- Control Temperature and Humidity. To be more comfortable when you have a cold, keep your home's temperature warm, but not hot. Using a humidifier or vaporizer to moisten your home's air can make breathing easier, especially in winter when air is dry.
About 19 million Americans suffer from nonallergic rhinitis. It has similar symptoms to rhinitis caused by allergies, but there is no known cause for nonallergic rhinitis. Adults more commonly have nonallergic rhinitis than children. If your symptoms last more than two weeks but you do not have allergies, you could have nonallergic rhinitis. You may need to see a doctor for allergy testing to know for sure.
- stuffy nose
- runny nose
- mucus in the throat (postnasal drip)
Although nonallergic rhinitis cannot be attributed to a single cause, there are things that lead to nonallergic rhinitis symptoms such as:
- Environmental Irritants. Particles in the air you breathe including dust, odors from perfumes and cleaning products, and smog or secondhand smoke can cause nonallergic rhinitis symptoms.
- Weather. Temperature or humidity changes can cause a runny or stuffy nose.
- Foods and beverages. Spicy foods and alcoholic beverages can lead to nasal congestion.
- Stress. Emotional or physical stress can trigger nonallergic rhinitis in some people.
- Utilize Nasal/Sinus Irrigation. Rinse nasal and sinus passages to eliminate particles that could be irritating the mucus membranes to prevent symptoms. Nasal rinsing also relieves congestion by cleansing your nasal and sinus passages of excess mucus. You can use the method that suits you best: bottles that squirt saline water into your nostrils utilize positive pressure, neti pots allow water to flow through your nasal and sinus passages by means of gravity, and pulsatile irrigation systems provide a pulsating stream of water or mist that mimics the natural action of the cilia (tiny hairs) in the nose.
- Use Nasal Sprays. Nasal sprays can help clear mucus and keep nasal passages moist and healthy.
- Manage Humidity. Keeping humidity around 45% serves a dual purpose. Dust mite allergen and mold spores are reduced, and moist air makes breathing easier. You may need a dehumidifier in hot months to reduce humidity and you may need a humidifier in winter months to increase humidity. A humidity gauge can help you keep humidity properly adjusted.
- Use Air Filtration. Capture airborne particles that may cause irritation with a HEPA air purifier and allergen reduction furnace filters.
- Choose personal hygiene products and cleaning products that have the least possible chemicals and no added fragrance or dye.
Allergic rhinitis, sometime called hay fever, is directly linked to allergies. If you have sneezing and sniffling symptoms when you are exposed to allergens such as pollen, mold spores, pet dander, dust mite allergen, or dust, your diagnosis is probably allergic rhinitis although you may require allergy testing to be sure.
What to do:
- See Tips Above. All the tips above for nonallergic rhinitis also apply to allergic rhinitis.
- Avoid Pollen. Stay indoors as much as possible during pollen season. Wear a mask during prolonged outdoor times. Keep windows and doors shut. Use air purifiers and furnace filters to capture pollen than gets into your home.
- Avoid Pet Dander. Keep pets outdoors when possible and out of the bedroom at all times. Bathe pets often to reduce dander.
- Control Mold. Keep humidity under 45% to inhibit mold growth. Watch for leaks and repair immediately. Use mold preventatives.
- Reduce Dust Mite Allergen. Monitor humidity and keep below 45% to control the dust mite population. Mite proof encasings on mattress, box spring, and pillows protect you from inhaling dust mite allergen while you sleep. Treat carpets to neutralize dust mite allergen.
- Control Dust. Household dust contains allergens, dirt particles, dead skin cells, and more. Dust regularly to avoid inhaling these irritants. Use a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filtration to prevent particles returning to your home's air in the vacuum's exhaust.
Allergens are knows triggers for asthma attacks and must be taken seriously. The tips above for avoiding allergens can help prevent asthma attacks. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Often asthma is made worse by exercise or breathing cold air. If you suspect asthma, you should definitely see a doctor who can prescribe medication to be used with compressor/nebulizers and suggest tools for asthma management.
Rhinitis can also lead to sinusitis, the swelling and inflammation of the sinus cavities over and below the eyes. Symptoms of sinusitis include: congestion, facial pain and tenderness, difficulty breathing through the nose, ear pain, aching in the upper jaw and teeth, cough, and sore throat.
What to do:
- Apply Warmth. Warm cloths or microwaveable heat packs can help relieve discomfort.
- Moisturize Sinuses. Breathing steam loosens congestion and can give some relief. Steam can be produced by a steam inhaler or from a bowl of steaming water.
- Use Nasal/Sinus Irrigation. See tips above.
Skin conditions such as eczema can accompany allergies or asthma.
What to do:
- Apply Moisturizer. Keep skin moisturized to reduce discomfort. While skin is still damp from bathing or showering, apply moisturizer liberally.
- Avoid Chemical Irritants. Use lotions, soaps, laundry products, and other personal care products that are free of added fragrance and dyes.
- Avoid Known Irritants. Often itchy fabrics like wool or linen can cause an eczema flare-up.
- Don't Sweat. Sudden changes in body temperature and stress can cause sweat that makes eczema worse.
- Minimize Exposure To Allergens. Triggers that cause allergy symptoms such as dust mite allergen, pet dander, mold spores, pollen, and house dust (that can contain all allergens) can also trigger eczema.
Often you can use the tips above to prevent or relieve the annoying symptoms of rhinitis that can interfere with your life. Preventing rhinitis can also help prevent more serious conditions such as asthma, sinusitis, and eczema. However, if symptoms linger, see a medical professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.