A congested, stuffy nose is a nuisance that can affect your ability to smell, taste and breathe. It is one of the most common complaints, especially when it persists or is accompanied by nasal discharge.
Meanwhile, chronic rhinitis is a condition that’s like hay fever but is caused by something other than an allergen. it produces cold-like symptoms that frequently leave you feeling miserable and worn-down. It may take allergy testing to rule out hay fever and accurately diagnose non-allergic rhinitis.
What Causes Nasal Congestion?
Congestion occurs when nasal tissues and blood vessels become swollen and inflamed. It has little to do with excess mucus, as many people believe. This swelling causes obstructed breathing. Anything that irritates the nasal tissues can cause congestion. The list of possible causes is lengthy and includes infections (colds, influenza and acute or chronic sinusitis), allergies, structural abnormalities (deviated septum, enlarged adenoids/tonsils, nasal polyps or tumors), non-allergic rhinitis, dry air, cold temperatures, bright lights, cluster headaches, hormonal changes, medications, thyroid problems, spicy foods, tobacco smoke and stress.
What Causes Rhinitis?
Rhinitis is common and can be brought on by a variety of factors. Viruses, bacteria and other irritants can all cause symptoms. Some of the more common triggers include viral infections (colds and flu), changes in the weather, airborne irritants (dust, smog, perfume), foods and beverages (hot foods, spicy foods, alcohol), stress, hormonal changes (pregnancy, menstruation) and certain medications (aspirin, ibuprofen, beta blockers). Out-of-balance nasal nerves may also play a contributing factor.
Home remedies are usually effective in treating congestion. Decongestants (to shrink the blood vessels in the nasal passages) and antihistamines (to reduce the amount of mucus) provide quick relief, but they are only effective for a few days. If used longer, they may worsen the condition.
Saline nasal sprays are a better bet, especially when used in conjunction with a humidifier to moisten the air and keep nasal passages from drying out. Drink lots of fluids, especially hot tea, broth or chicken soup.
For infants and younger children — who rely on their nose for breathing — a stuffy nose can be dangerous. Try removing mucus from the nose with a nasal bulb (aspirator) and having your child lie on his or her stomach to help mucus drain. Try saline nose drops (either purchased from a drugstore or homemade by mixing one-quarter teaspoon salt with one-half cup lukewarm water).
Treating Chronic Rhinitis
Chronic rhinitis treatment is based on the severity of your symptoms. Mild cases of rhinitis may respond to simple home remedies; irrigation of the nasal passages with a Neti pot or bulb syringe, using a humidifier to moisten the air and drinking plenty of fluids can all help. If you know specifically what is causing you misery, avoid it if possible. It’s always a good idea to avoid cigarettes and alcohol.
In addition, your doctor may recommend over the counter (OTC) or prescription drugs. These include antihistamines, decongestants, and saline and corticosteroid nasal sprays. Surgery is probably going to be required for nasal polyps, a deviated septum or any other physical abnormalities.
Call Albany ENT & Allergy Services at (518) 701-2085 for more information or to schedule an appointment.