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Rhinitis is an umbrella term for the inflammation of the nasal passages. 1 Symptoms of rhinitis are sneezing and a runny and/or itchy nose. 1

Rhinitis can be divided into allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis: 1


Allergic rhinitis: 1

  • This is an over reaction by the body’s immune system to allergens like pollen, mould, dust, or smoke
  • The immune system produces a chemical called histamine in response to allergens
  • Histamine causes sinus membranes to swell, resulting in congestion and sneezing

Non-allergic rhinitis: 1

  • This is not linked to an allergic reaction
  • Can be triggered by smoke and other pollutants, as well as strong smells, alcohol, or cold temperatures
  • It may also be caused by nasal blockages, infections, and overuse of some medications

Sinusitis (also known as rhinosinusitis) symptoms are similar to those of rhinitis. 1 Sinusitis very often occurs after rhinitis and involves the nasal passages and the blockage of parts of the sinus cavaties. 2 The fluid produced in the sinuses and the blockage of the nasal passages can lead to bacterial infection and chronic sinusitis. 1

How do I tell the difference between allergic rhinitis and sinusitis?

References: 1. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Allergic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, and Rhinosinusitis. [online]. [cited 2018 May 29]. Available from URL: 2. Dykewicz MS, Hamilos DL. Rhinitis and sinusitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;125(2 Suppl 2):S103-S115.

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