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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 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


Allergic rhinitis

Facial pain or pressure Yes Sometimes
Duration of illness More than 10-14 days Varies
Nasal discharge Thick, yellow-green Clear, thin, watery
Fever Sometimes No
Headache Sometimes Sometimes
Pain in upper teeth Sometimes No
Bad breath Sometimes No
Coughing Sometimes Sometimes
Nasal congestion Yes Sometimes
Sneezing No Sometimes

Adapted from University of Virginia School of Medicine 3

Find out more about allergic rhinitis.

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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: 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:

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