Health Information and Tools >  Non-Allergic Rhinitis
Facebook Tweet Email Share

Main Content

Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Topic Overview

What is non-allergic rhinitis?

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

Non-allergic 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, odours, 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 post-nasal drip.)
  • Sneezing.

Non-allergic 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 non-allergic 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 non-allergic 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 (5 g) and 1 teaspoon (5 g) of baking soda to 2 cups (500 mL) 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 or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.


Current as of: July 29, 2019

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

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.