December 01, 2014

Nonallergic rhinitis

Another cause of congestion

Nonallergic rhinitis

You've had a runny nose for what seems like months now. At first you thought it was a cold — colds always seem to go around in the wintertime — but it doesn't really feel like one.

You feel congested but have no other symptoms, except for maybe a tickle in your throat. Plus, it's gone on so long it seems like something else.

Could it be allergies? Perhaps.

Allergies — allergic rhinitis, or hay fever — aren't just seasonal. You also can be allergic to indoor allergens, such as mold, dust mites or pet dander.

But it could also be nonallergic rhinitis, also called vasomotor rhinitis. The term rhinitis refers to inflammation of the mucous membranes in your nose. Nonallergic and allergic rhinitis share many of the same signs and symptoms — sneezing, nasal congestion, a runny nose or mucus in your throat.

The difference is that nonallergic rhinitis doesn't involve your immune system. Instead, it's an irritation of the lining of your nose. As a result, treatments for nonallergic rhinitis and allergic rhinitis differ slightly.

Sorting it out

To diagnose nonallergic rhinitis, your doctor usually starts by making sure your symptoms aren't caused by allergic rhinitis.

Skin prick tests and blood tests can help rule out common allergens — such as dust mites, mold, pollen and pet dander.

Your doctor will also want to be sure your symptoms aren't caused by a chronic sinus infection, a sinus problem related to a deviated septum — the slender partition that separates your two...