Non-allergic rhinitis is a commonly occurring condition among adults characterised by inflammation of the mucous membranes present within the nose. A persistent stuffy nose is the most prominent symptom, often accompanied by constant sneezing, coughing and accumulation of phlegm in the nasal and throat passages. While non-allergic rhinitis differs from allergic rhinitis i.e. hay fever based on the cause of nasal congestion – the latter being due to allergens like pollen, dust, mould, the symptoms of both the upper respiratory tract illnesses are the same.

Also Read: Hay Fever: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Causes Of Non-Allergic Rhinitis:

Non-allergic rhinitis can arise in both children and adults, but it is widely reported by people above the age of 20 years. Moreover, women going through hormonal changes during menstruation and pregnancy, besides from taking oral contraceptives, are more predisposed to contracting this nasal ailment than men.

The trigger factors inducing non-allergic rhinitis can range from environmental particles in occupational settings or outside surroundings such as dust, chemical fumes, strong-smelling substances, to extreme weather changes, viral infection/flu, specific foods and medicines, as well as underlying health issues like hypothyroidism, obstructive sleep apnea, acid reflux/heartburn.

In addition, exposure to second-hand smoke, chemical irritants in the workplace or outside environs, aside from continuous use of nasal decongestant sprays/drops and pre-existing long-term health anomalies of diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome also prompt non-allergic rhinitis and result in worsening of symptoms.
Non-Allergic Rhinitis


The typical signs of non-allergic rhinitis consist:

  • Runny nose, which subsides occasionally and then develops again
  • Sneezing often, with substantial release of phlegm/mucous secretions
  • Incessant cough and cold

While these indications also emerge in hay fever, the discomforting instances of itchy nose, throat, red/watery eyes which are common in allergic reactions, do not happen in instances of non-allergic rhinitis.

Also Read: Itchy Eyes? These Allergens Could Be The Cause

If left untreated, the symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis become more intense, impeding productivity at school, college, work and home. Also, extensive inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose can give rise to nasal polyps – soft small benign growths in the nasal passages and even trigger sinusitis – infection/swelling and blocking of membranes lining the sinuses (cavities in and around the nose). It is hence vital to report symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis to a doctor, especially if the signs are recurrent and exacerbate with time, to ensure proper treatment and prevent any further health complications.


There are no conclusive diagnostic assays to detect non-allergic rhinitis, hence the doctor analyses the nature and pattern of symptoms in the patient to see if nasal congestion recurs often within a year to confirm the instance of inflammation of mucous membranes.

Furthermore, a skin test by pricking the skin, exposing it to allergens and seeing if any raised bumps emerge, besides a blood test to gauge the immune system’s response to a series of allergens by measuring the levels of immunoglobulin antibodies i.e. proteins in bloodstream are also conducted, to rule out the possibility of allergic rhinitis.

Additionally, imaging tests of nasal endoscopy, CT scan are also carried out, to obtain detailed visuals of interior nasal passages and sinuses to spot any signs of inflammation or infection and rule out the chance of sinusitis triggering congestion in the nostrils.


In minor cases of non-allergic rhinitis, simple home remedies such as steam inhalation and drinking herbal tea is sufficient to ease symptoms of nasal congestion.

If the indications of nasal congestion are persistent and of a moderate to severe intensity, then over-the-counter saline nasal sprays, decongestant medications, as well as prescription antihistamine and steroid nasal sprays are given by the doctor, to pacify inflammation within the nasal tract and lessen irritating signs of coughing, sneezing and runny nose.

In some situations, non-allergic rhinitis persists for a long time, leading to complications of deviated septum or incessant nasal polyps, which require surgery to rectify the defects/eliminate the growths in the nasal passages. This lowers inflammation of the mucous membranes, as well as soothes nasal congestion and effectively resolves discomforting symptoms of cough, cold, stuffy nose in the patient.