Rhinitis  means inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes.  Inflammation can be caused by allergy, infection, or irritation.  Inflammation of the nose is important in asthma because the mucous membrane of the nose, the airways in the lung, and the lining of the esophagus share the same irritant reflexes since their development in the embryonic period.  Stimulation of one membrane causes reflex inflammation in the others

Allergies can be seasonal or perennial (year-round).

Seasonal allergic rhinitis  refers to the presence of allergy symptoms triggered by seasonal allergens such as pollen and mold spores during the spring, summer, or fall.  The timing of the seasons varies geographically throughout the United States.

Perennial allergic rhinitis  refers to year-round symptoms that are triggered by indoor allergens, which are mostly from animals, mold spores, feathers/down, cockroaches, and dust mites.

Symptoms may include sneezing fits (5 to 10 sneezes in succession); itching of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and palate; runny nose; watery/puff eyes; nasal stuffiness; postnasal drip; and sinus pressure.

Nonallergic rhinitis  (similar to vasomotor rhinitis or nonallergic rhinitis with eosinophil syndrome) mimics the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.  Triggers include weather changes (both barometric and temperature), postural changes, and irritants including smoke, perfume, cleaning agents, solvents, incense, potpourri, and soaps/detergents.

Symptoms may include nasal congestion, postnasal drip, sinus pressure/headaches, ear plugging/popping, and may include any of the symptoms listed above under seasonal allergy symptoms.   Coexistent conditions such as reflux esophagitis (heartburn) or aspirin sensitivity are also important triggers.

Updated 10/12/2011

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