Runny nose, sneezing and stuffy nose… If a cold usually heals spontaneously within a few days, its symptoms can sometimes set in over time: this is called chronic rhinitis. Fairly common, this disease can nevertheless be disabling on a daily basis.
What is chronic rhinitis?
Inflammation and irritation of the mucous membranes of the nasal cavity, chronic rhinitis can be caused by a viral infection (a rhinovirus for example). When it is infectious in origin, rhinitis usually only lasts a few days. This acute rhinitis is also referred to as the more commonly known “cold”.
But rhinitis can also last longer, and persist over time. When symptoms develop over several weeks or months, it is called chronic rhinitis.
What are the causes of this type of rhinitis?
Chronic rhinitis can be caused by different factors. It can be:
- allergic rhinitis: since the 1960s, cases of allergic rhinitis have increased sharply in industrialized countries. Today, it is estimated that nearly 20% of the population is affected by this famous “hay fever“. This disease can be caused by different types of allergens: dust, mites, pollens, cat or dog hair, molds … When they are in contact with the responsible substance, the nasal mucous membranes try to expel and react to protect the organism. It may be a seasonal allergic rhinitis: caused by pollen, it only appears during certain months of the year. In other cases, rhinitis is caused by an allergy to dust mites or molds, and occurs at any time;
- non-allergic rhinitis: this type of rhinitis can be caused by a toxic or irritant substance, such as tobacco, perfume, particles or other chemicals used in the workplace (fumes, vapors, varnishes, glues, paints, gas, etc. ), or drug treatments;
- vasomotor rhinitis: it usually results from stress or an imbalance of the nervous system;
- atrophic rhinitis: with age or in the presence of certain pathologies, the nasal mucosa atrophies and thins. The dilation and dryness of the nasal cavities causes the appearance of several chronic symptoms.
A chronic rhinitis can also be of hormonal origin (rhinitis of the pregnant woman, for example), caused by the presence of polyps in the nose (nasal polyposis) or be the consequence of a more serious disease (a cancer of the sinuses, for example).
Symptoms of chronic rhinitis are as follows:
- nasal congestion (or blocked nose): it may be a unilateral obstruction (only one nostril is blocked) or bilateral (both nostrils are blocked);
- a runny nose (or runny nose): this may be a discharge towards the front (anterior rhinorrhea, when the patient blows his nose) or towards the back of the throat (posterior rhinorrhea);
- tingling in the nose and sneezing attacks (especially in environments that contain allergenic substances);
- eyes that weep;
- decreased or altered sense of smell (anosmia), a feeling of bad odor in the nose;
- headaches (mainly in the eyes);
Several of these symptoms can appear at the same time. They can also appear in isolation.
Other symptoms can be associated with this type of rhinitis:
- coughing episodes or difficulty breathing, in the most severe cases;
- certain symptoms of conjunctivitis (red eyes, itchy eyes, swelling of the eyelids, discharge from the eyes, etc.), especially in the case of allergic rhinitis.
When rhinitis lasts for several weeks without interruption, irritation of the mucous membranes can be the cause of the appearance of other symptoms:
- scabs and redness inside the nose (swollen lining turns purple);
- frequent nosebleeds;
- purulent and foul-smelling discharge (especially in the case of atrophic rhinitis).
How to establish the diagnosis?
While the symptoms of chronic inflammatory rhinitis are generally mild, they can be more or less unpleasant and debilitating on a daily basis. It then becomes necessary to consult a doctor, so that he can prescribe an appropriate treatment.
Unlike a common cold that only lasts a few days, chronic rhinitis (whether allergic or not) can cause symptoms for several weeks or even months .
On a daily basis, these symptoms can be bothersome and affect the quality of life. They can appear systematically in certain situations: in certain environments, at certain times of the year or at certain times of the day, or even in the presence of certain animals… They can cause sleep disorders, absenteeism at school or frequent work stoppages.
It then becomes necessary to consult a general practitioner. The latter then directs his patient to an ENT specialist, specialist in pathologies of the otorhinolaryngeal region (ears, nose and throat). After making his diagnosis, this doctor can set up an appropriate treatment or refer his patient to an allergist.
How is the diagnosis made?
To make the diagnosis of chronic rhinitis, the doctor first carries out a precise interview. In particular, he asks his patient about his family history, the nature of his profession, the circumstances of the onset of symptoms, their frequency and their duration.
Depending on the orientation of his diagnosis, the doctor may also perform several types of examinations:
- a nasal endoscopy: this examination allows him to visually explore the nasal cavities of his patient using a fiberscope (flexible or rigid), and to detect the presence of any abnormalities;
- skin tests (prick-test): carried out on the patient’s skin, they make it possible to confirm whether or not the rhinitis is allergic or not. They also make it possible to identify the allergenic substance in question;
- blood tests and / or a nasal provocation test (always in the context of checking for an allergy).
Which treatment to consider?
To treat chronic rhinitis, it is first necessary to know the cause: establishing the correct diagnosis is therefore an essential prerequisite for any treatment. Indeed, rhinitis linked to a hormonal problem will not be relieved in the same way as allergic rhinitis.
While waiting to find the cause of your chronic rhinitis, you can start by reducing the discomfort caused by its symptoms. To do this, you can:
- blow your nose regularly;
- wash the nose: carried out with physiological serum or a seawater-based solution, the nose wash helps relieve the symptoms of rhinitis. This helps clean the nasal mucous membranes, helping you breathe easier and flushing germs, viruses and other secretions from your body. You just need to inject the physiological saline solution into one of your nostrils using a pipette or a small pear, tilting your head to the side. The liquid passes into the other nostril, and flows out, carrying with it all the impurities. In the form of single doses (or spray), physiological serum is available in pharmacies. To find out more about how to use it and the precautions to follow, do not hesitate to consult your pharmacist.
To fight against fatigue, remember to get enough rest and hydrate yourself well (at least two liters of water per day). You can also take vitamin C . Do not hesitate to take advice from your pharmacist.
Treat allergic rhinitis
The treatment of allergic rhinitis first involves avoiding any contact with the responsible allergenic substance as much as possible. For example, if your rhinitis is caused by pollen, consider airing out your home early in the morning (the amount of pollen in the air is then less). You can also avoid gardening activities at certain times of the year or have a loved one mow your lawn for you.
Allergic rhinitis can be managed with desensitization treatment . Desensitization involves making the allergic person more tolerant of the responsible allergen. Increasingly large doses of this allergen are administered to it (progressive exposure), by injection or by mouth. This process is usually scheduled over several months or years.
Allergic symptoms can also be relieved by taking antihistamines (by mouth). They help reduce the allergic reaction of rhinitis. Your doctor may also prescribe decongestants and nasal corticosteroids.
Interesting to read: Cold feeling in the chest: Why does this happen?
What about natural treatments?
In some cases, chronic rhinitis can be relieved or treated with natural treatment . To treat chronic rhinitis naturally, you can consider turning to:
- homeopathy, naturopathy, herbal medicine or aromatherapy (use of the qualities of different essential oils, such as eucalyptus, field mint or thyme);
- osteopathy, acupuncture or thermal cures (sinus washing, nasal bath, aerosol, etc.).
To find out more about all these treatments, always ask your doctor and pharmacist for advice. Also be sure to follow the precautions for use indicated on the product packaging.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to consult a doctor in teleconsultation?
Rhinitis is caused by viruses and to avoid spreading them (as it can sometimes be the coronavirus), it is best to go through teleconsultation to get diagnosed and receive a prescription if necessary to treat the symptoms.
How to stop a runny nose?
A stuffy or runny nose is the biggest problem with chronic rhinitis. Here’s how to stop it:
- clean your nose with seawater sprays or physiological serum;
- made of hot steam fumigation to clear mucous membranes of the nose;
- use essential oils with peppermint or eucalyptus to treat your chronic rhinitis, if the opinion of your doctor is favorable and in the absence of contraindications;
- ask your doctor if using a sulfur spray is relevant for treating your chronic rhinitis.