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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

Rhinitis

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 cavities. 2 The fluid produced in the sinuses and the blockage of the nasal passages can lead to bacterial infection and chronic sinusitis. 1

If you are still having problems determining whether you have allergic rhinitis or sinusitis, visit one of the Medicare Pharmacies for a Videomed consult with a doctor in pharmacy.

Allergic rhinitis and sinusitis can often seem like the same thing. Here is a table to help you compare your symptoms:

Comparison of symptoms of sinusitis and allergic rhinitis 3

Sinusitis

Allergic rhinitis

Facial pain or pressureYesSometimes
Duration of illnessMore than 10-14 daysVaries
Nasal dischargeThick, yellow-greenClear, thin, watery
FeverSometimesNo
HeadacheSometimesSometimes
Pain in upper teethSometimesNo
Bad breathSometimesNo
CoughingSometimesSometimes
Nasal congestionYesSometimes
SneezingNoSometimes

Adapted from University of Virginia School of Medicine 3

Find out more about allergic rhinitis.

woman sneezing into tissue
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Find out more about
sinusitis.

woman rubbing temple and upper sinus region near eye
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References: 1. American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. Allergic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, and Rhinosinusitis. [online]. [cited 2018 May 29]. Available from URL: http://www.entnet.org/content/allergic-rhinitis-sinusitis-and-rhinosinusitis. 2. Dykewicz MS, Hamilos DL. Rhinitis and sinusitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;125(2 Suppl 2):S103-S115. 3. University of Virginia School of medicine. Rhinology & Sinus Surgery. [online]. [cited 2018 May 29]. Available from URL: https://med.virginia.edu/otolaryngology/information-for-patients/rhinology-sinus-surgery/.

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