Nonallergic rhinopathy

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Definition

Rhinitis is a condition that includes a runny nose, sneezing, and nasal stuffiness. When hay allergies (hayfever) or a cold are not causing these symptoms, the condition is called nonallergic rhinitis. One type of nonallergic rhinitis is called nonallergic rhinopathy. This condition used to be known as vasomotor rhinitis.

Alternative Names

Rhinitis - nonallergic; Idiopathic rhinitis; Nonallergic rhinitis; Vasomotor rhinitis; Irritant rhinitis

Causes

Nonallergic rhinopathy is not caused by an infection or allergy. The exact cause is unknown. Symptoms are triggered by something that irritates the nose, such as:

  • A dry atmosphere
  • Air pollution
  • Alcohol
  • Certain medicines
  • Spicy foods, and in some cases, while eating in general
  • Strong emotions
  • Strong odors, such as perfumes, cleaning products (especially bleach) among others

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion (stuffy nose)
  • Sneezing
  • Watery nasal drainage

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will ask about your symptoms, when they occur, and what seems to trigger them.

You will also be asked about your home and work environment. The provider may look inside your nose to check if the tissues lining your nose are swollen due to inflamed blood vessels.

A skin test may be done to rule out allergies as a cause of your symptoms.

If your provider determines you can't have skin testing, special blood tests may help with the diagnosis. These tests, known as IgE allergen tests (ImmunoCAP; used to be called RAST), can measure the levels of allergy-related substances. A complete blood count (CBC) test can measure eosinophils (allergy-type white blood cells) to get a total eosinophil count. This may also help diagnose allergies.

Treatment

The main treatment is simply avoiding the things that trigger your symptoms.

In some cases, decongestants or a nasal spray containing an antihistamine may help. Corticosteroid nasal sprays may be useful for some forms of nonallergic rhinopathy.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you think you have symptoms of nonallergic rhinopathy.

References

Corren J, Baroody FM, Pawankar R. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 42.

Joe SA, Liu JZ. Nonallergic rhinitis. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 43.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 6/16/2017
  • Frederic F. Little, MD, Department of Allergy and Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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