What is Rhinitis?

Rhinitis is inflammation of the nose and presents as either allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis is where the nose is irritated by something you’re allergic to, such as pollen in the form of hay fever. Non-allergic rhinitis can cause similar symptoms to allergic rhinitis but without an allergic cause. Triggers for non-allergic rhinitis can range from changes in temperature, eating specific types of food and exercise.

Persistent rhinitis means you’re experiencing long-term symptoms – typically defined as at least four weeks. Symptoms can vary from mild nose irritation to more severe, ongoing symptoms, which massively impact quality of life. Rhinitis is also strongly associated with asthma.

Frequently asked questions

The causes of allergic rhinitis include:

  • house dust mites
  • pet dander or hair
  • pollen from trees, grass and weeds
  • animals such as dogs and cats
  • mould
  • wood dust, flour dust and latex

Common causes of non-allergic rhinitis include:

  • a cold
  • changes in the weather
  • irritants such as smoke or perfume
  • alcohol and spicy food
  • hormone changes
  • underlying conditions such as a hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid
  • medications such as beta-blockers or aspirin
  • overuse of decongestant nasal sprays

Rhinitis will usually be diagnosed based on your symptoms, medical history, and a clinical examination of the nose to look for signs of inflammation. A skin prick or blood test can determine which allergens are causing your symptoms. If a non-allergic cause is suspected, a nasal endoscope or CT scan may be required to check for conditions such as sinusitis.

You will be advised to avoid any possible triggers. Treatments for allergic rhinitis are nasal steroid sprays, antihistamine sprays or oral medications, often combined with saline irrigation. Over-the-counter decongestion nose sprays are only advised for short-term use.

Sufferers of severe allergic rhinitis may benefit from immunotherapy, which aims to make the immune system more tolerant to allergens. Surgery may be required for structural problems such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum.

Mr Annakan Navaratnam


Mr Annakan Navaratnam

Annakan Navaratnam is Consultant Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) Surgeon whose private practice is based at Harrow and One Welbeck Hospital in Central London and The Clementine Churchill Hospital in Harrow. In his NHS practice, he works at Royal National ENT Hospital, University College London Hospital (UCLH) and is an honorary consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

He has a subspeciality interest in rhinology and facial plastic surgery with particular expertise in septorhinoplasty and nose reshaping surgery.

Annakan is excellently placed to manage general adult and paediatric ENT presentations and in particular is able to assess and treat complex problems related to the form and function of the nose. This includes endonasal (scarless) rhinoplasty, revision septorhinoplasty as well as advanced endoscopic sinus surgery.