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Rhinitis is inflammation of the mucous lining of the nose.


Rhinitis is a nonspecific term that covers infections, allergies, and other disorders whose common feature is the location of their symptoms. In rhinitis, the mucous membranes become infected or irritated, producing a discharge, congestion, and swelling of the tissues. The most widespread form of infectious rhinitis is the common cold.
The common cold is the most frequent viral infection in the general population, causing more absenteeism from school or work than any other illness. Colds are self-limited, lasting about 3-10 days, although they are sometimes followed by a bacterial infection. Children are more susceptible than adults; teenage boys more susceptible than teenage girls; and adult women more susceptible than adult men. In the United States, colds are most frequent during the late fall and winter.

Causes and symptoms

Colds can be caused by as many as 200 different viruses. The viruses are transmitted by sneezing and coughing, by contact with soiled tissues or handkerchiefs, or by close contact with an infected person. Colds are easily spread in schools, offices, or any place where people live or work in groups. The incubation period ranges between 24 and 72 hours.
The onset of a cold is usually sudden. The virus causes the lining of the nose to become inflamed and produce large quantities of thin, watery mucus. Children sometimes run a fever with a cold. The inflammation spreads from the nasal passages to the throat and upper airway, producing a dry cough, headache, and watery eyes. Some people develop muscle or joint aches and feel generally tired or weak. After several days, the nose becomes less inflamed and the watery discharge is replaced by a thick, sticky mucus. This change in the appearance of the nasal discharge helps to distinguish rhinitis caused by a viral infection from rhinitis caused by an allergy.


There is no specific test for viral rhinitis. The diagnosis is based on the symptoms. In children, the doctor will examine the child's throat and glands to rule out measles and other childhood illnesses that have similar early symptoms. Adults whose symptoms last longer than a week may require further testing to rule out a secondary bacterial infection, or an allergy. Bacterial infections can usually be identified from a laboratory culture of the patient's nasal discharge. Allergies can be evaluated by blood tests, skin testing for specific substances, or nasal smears.


There is no cure for the common cold; treatment is given for symptom relief. Medications include aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for headache and muscle pain, and decongestants to relieve stuffiness or runny nose. Patients should be warned against overusing decongestants, because they can cause a rebound effect. Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines are also available; however, most antihistamines carry warnings of drowsiness and the inability to do some tasks while medicated. Claritin is a prescription-strength OTC non-drowsy antihistamine that helps relieve symptoms of rhinitis. Antibiotics are not given for colds because they do not kill viruses.
Supportive care includes bed rest and drinking plenty of fluid.
Treatments under investigation include the use of ultraviolet light and injections of interferon.
Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs are available to help control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. The most common class is antihistamines.

Alternative treatment

Homeopaths might prescribe any of 10 different remedies, depending on the appearance of the nasal discharge, the patient's emotional state, and the stage of infection. Naturopaths would recommend vitamin A and zinc supplements, together with botanical preparations made from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), or astragalus (Astragalus membraneceus) root.
At one time, the herb (Echinacea spp.) was touted as a remedy to relieve cold and rhinitis symptoms. However, a study published in 2004 reported that the herb failed to relieve cold symptoms in 400 children taking it and caused skin rashes in some children.


Most colds resolve completely in about a week. Complications are unusual but may include sinusitis (inflammation of the nasal sinuses), bacterial infections, or infections of the middle ear.


There is no vaccine effective against colds, and infection does not confer immunity. Prevention depends on:
  • washing hands often, especially before touching the face
  • minimizing contact with people already infected
  • not sharing hand towels, eating utensils, or water glasses.



"Study: Echinacea Is Ineffective." Chain Drug Review February 16, 2004: 25.

Key terms

Interferon — A protein produced by cells infected by a virus that stimulates the body's resistance to the virus.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose; it may be either mild and chronic or acute. Viruses, bacteria, and allergens are responsible for its varied manifestations. Often a viral rhinitis is complicated by a bacterial infection caused by streptococci, staphylococci, and pneumococci or other bacteria. hay fever, an acute type of allergic rhinitis, is also subject to bacterial complications. Many factors assist the invasion of the mucous membranes by bacteria, including allergens, excessive dryness, exposure to dampness and cold, excessive inhalation of dust, and injury to the nasal cilia due to viral infection.

It usually is not serious, but some forms may be contagious. The mucous membrane of the nose becomes swollen and there is a nasal discharge. Some types are accompanied by fever, muscle aches, and general discomfort with sneezing and running eyes. Breathing through the nose may become difficult or impossible. Often rhinitis is accompanied by inflammation of the throat and sinuses. If bacterial infection develops, the nasal discharge is thick and contains pus.

Acute rhinitis is the medical term for the common cold. Chronic rhinitis may result in permanent thickening of the nasal mucosa. Treatment of rhinitis is aimed at eliminating the primary cause and administration of decongestants to relieve nasal congestion.
acute rhinitis common cold.
allergic rhinitis any allergic reaction of the nasal mucosa, occurring perennially (nonseasonal allergic rhinitis) or seasonally (hay fever).
atrophic rhinitis a chronic form of nonallergic noninfectious rhinitis marked by wasting of the mucous membrane and the glands. It is sometimes the result of trauma, vascular damage by radiation therapy, and environmental irritants, and disease has also been implicated.
rhinitis caseo´sa that with a caseous, gelatinous, and fetid discharge.
fibrinous rhinitis membranous rhinitis.
hypertrophic rhinitis that with thickening and swelling of the mucous membrane.
membranous rhinitis chronic rhinitis with the formation of a false membrane, as in nasal diphtheria; called also fibrinous rhinitis.
nonseasonal allergic rhinitis allergic rhinitis occurring continuously or intermittently all year round, due to exposure to a more or less ever-present allergen, marked by sudden attacks of sneezing, swelling of the nasal mucosa with profuse watery discharge, itching of the eyes, and lacrimation. Called also nonseasonal or perennial hay fever.
seasonal allergic rhinitis hay fever.
vasomotor rhinitis
1. nonallergic rhinitis in which transient changes in vascular tone and permeability (with the same symptoms of allergic rhinitis) are brought on by such stimuli as mild chilling, fatigue, anger, and anxiety.
2. any condition of allergic or nonallergic rhinitis, as opposed to infectious rhinitis.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


Inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane.
Synonym(s): nasal catarrh
[rhin- + G. -itis, inflammation]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


Inflammation of nasal mucosa. See Allergic rhinitis, Medicamentosa rhinitis, Seasonal allergic rhinitis, Vasomotor rhinitis.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane.
[rhin- + G. -itis, inflammation]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


Inflammation of the mucous membrane lining of the nose. Rhinitis is one of the commonest of human complaints and is a major feature of the common cold and of hay fever (ALLERGIC RHINITIS). The membrane becomes swollen, so that the air flow is partly or wholly obstructed, and its glands become overactive causing excessive mucus production and a watery discharge. Vasomotor rhinitis is the result of a disturbance of the nervous control of blood vessels in the mucous membrane. Hypertrophic rhinitis, with thickening and persistent congestion of the membrane, is the result of long-term inflammation or repeated infection. Atrophic rhinitis features shrinkage and loss of the mucous membrane, with dryness, crusting and loss of the sense of smell.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005


Inflammation of nasal mucous membrane.
[rhin- + G. -itis, inflammation]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about rhinitis

Q. ALLERGIC RHINITIS what are the causes of?

A. well...that's easy- allergy. some materials, let's say pollens, can travel through the air and then when someone smell them- his body can react like this substance if in fact a threat. cells in the nasal cave release substances that cause rhinitis.

Q. What is the difference between chronic sinusitis and chronic rhinitis? I have chronic rhinitis but it is hard to tell if I have sinusitis.

A. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the nasal cavities. The names specify the location. It can be caused by anything, if gonorrhea bacteria will enter the nasal cavities and infect them- that is sinusitis also. Rhinitis is an inflammation of the internal nose. Again can be caused by anything. The way to differentiate- the sinuses are a closed space. If it fills with liquid too much- it’ll hurt.

More discussions about rhinitis
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References in periodicals archive ?
Although specific diagnosis of allergic rhinitis cannot be made by measuring allergic markers, they may provide objective support to the diagnosis (9).
Mentioning that Rhinitis is triggered by allergens that can be found both outdoors and indoors, he said it is characterized by nasal symptoms including rhinorrhoea (runny nose), sneezing, and nasal blockage and/or itching, the condition was said to be often associated with ocular symptoms.
Search items included 'allergic,' 'hypersensitive,' 'anaphylactic,' 'rhinitis,' 'nasitis,' 'SLIT,' etc., The articles were restricted to those published in English or Chinese and human studies.
Conclusion: Serum IL-4, IL-5, IL-10, adhesion molecules and sE-selectin are all involved in the pathogenesis of allergic rhinitis and asthma, which can be used to evaluate the degrees of respiratory allergic diseases.
According to the most recent CDC data, over 17 million adults in the US are affected by seasonal allergic rhinitis every year.
Allergic rhinitis is a common disease in population.
An inflammatory response can also occur with nonallergic rhinitis, caused by white blood cells that become active in response to chemical irritants like cigarette smoke, perfume, cologne, scented products and pollution.
The majority of participants (70 percent) self-selected their medications; a similar number of participants were identified as having rhinitis (71 percent).
Patients experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of allergic rhinitis were collected from the outpatient clinic of the Department of Otolaryngology between March of 2018 and June of 2018.
Umar Farooq, Head of ENT Department at Dow University of Health Sciences said, 'Allergic Rhinitis or hay fever, happens when one breathes in something to which one is allergic, and the inside of the nose becomes inflamed and swollen.
When allergic rhinitis is caused by outdoor allergens, e.g., mould or trees, grass and weed pollens it is often referred to as seasonal allergies, or 'hay fever',' said Allergic rhinitis may also be triggered by allergens found in the home, such as animal dander, indoor mould, or house dust mites.