Running from rhinitis

  • Health
  • Sunday, 09 Feb 2003

If you suffer from a stuffy, runny nose, it’s most probably rhinitis, an inflammation in the nasal cavity.Rainy days are known to precipitate vasomotor rhinitis. 

The house dust mite can be a cause of perennial rhinitis, a form of allergic rhinitis. 

I’VE been having a runny nose lately, and I’ve been sneezing a lot in class, to the chagrin of my teachers. This has gone on for months. Am I having a really prolonged cold?  

More likely, you are having one of the types of rhinitis. If you have a runny or stuffy nose most of the time, and it doesn’t seem to go away like a common cold does, it’s very likely a non-infectious rhinitis. Not that the common cold isn’t a rhinitis. In fact, it is a rhinitis of infectious (viral) origin. But, thank goodness, it’s usually short-lived and it does go away. 

If you suffer from a stuffy, runny nose, it's most probably rhinitis, an inflammation in the nasal cavity.

Rhinitis just means inflammation of the nasal cavity. And, yes, it is terribly annoying. And, yes, I have it too. Right now. No thanks to the haze.  


You mean there are many types of rhinitis? How miserable can it get?  

Well, there’s atopic rhinitis, commonly called allergic rhinitis, vasomotor rhinitis, infectious rhinitis and other less common ones.  

The commonest is allergic rhinitis. It’s estimated that more than 200 million people in the world have it. That’s a lot of shared misery.  


Do I have allergic rhinitis? How can I tell?  

Even within allergic rhinitis, there are several subtypes. There’s one known as hay fever. It’s triggered when you are allergic to pollen. It’s supposed to be seasonal. The triggers can be trees in spring, grass in summer and weeds in autumn.  

But since we live in an eternal tropical summer, pollen can come from anywhere, anytime. Lucky us. You will know when you have the usual symptoms – sneezing, itching in your nose, runny and stuffy nose, watery or itchy eyes. To make doubly sure, the doctor may run a skin test on you for the allergens.  

There’s another type of allergic rhinitis called perennial rhinitis with allergic triggers. You can have this throughout the year. This is because the triggers are indoor ones like house dust (thanks to the dust mite), mould, cockroaches and animal dander.  

Yet another type, to confuse the issue further, is perennial rhinitis with non-allergic triggers. The name says it all. It’s not triggered by allergens, yet it’s very allergic-like. Symptoms are the same. No one quite understands this condition to this day. But this one is the one that can lead to nasal polyps, little growths in your nostrils. 


The house dust mite can be a cause of perennial rhinitis, a form a allergic rhinitis.

I don’t seem to be allergic to stuff. What about the other one ? vasomotor rhinitis? Could I be having that instead?  

It’s possible. As the name suggests, vasomotor rhinitis means the reaction of the blood vessels in your nose. A person with this type reacts to temperature and humidity changes. Like cold weather, for example, or rain. Or air-conditioning. They can even react to smoke, different kinds of smells (like perfume and bad odours), and even emotional upsets.  

People with these usually suffer stuffy noses and incessant dripping of nasal fluid (commonly called “snot”) into the back of their throats. They end up swallowing these a lot.  


Can one have an infectious rhinitis for a very long time?  

Unfortunately, yes. This happens when your viral respiratory infection (common cold) lapses into complications like sinusitis. The doctor can diagnose and confirm sinus infection with an X-ray or CT scan. Actually, it’s not uncommon for a person to have a mixture of two or more types of rhinitis. Rhinitis is a pretty generous condition.  


If I have allergic rhinitis, can this lead to asthma?  

It doesn’t specifically lead to asthma. But people with allergic rhinitis frequently have associated asthma and eczema. These are generally atopic conditions.  


What can I do? I’m so miserable and it’s really disrupting my life. 

Rainy days are known to precipitate vasomotor rhinitis.

Well, you can visit the doctor and have him/her diagnose just what type of rhinitis you have. It may not always be possible to ascertain exactly which. But if you have allergic rhinitis, you would be advised to keep your doors and windows closed during pollen season. Apparently, air-conditioning reduces indoor pollen a lot, and helps reduce humidity.  

Need to go out? All right, but just be aware that grass pollen is highest in the afternoon and early evening, while mould spores like to come out in the morning or after rain. Keep your home well ventilated to keep that mould away. Don’t allow dampness to fester in your home. Wash your bed sheets and blankets in hot water to reduce dust. Remember, dust mites can survive lukewarm water. Stay away from cigarette smoke, perfume and sprays.  


Are there, like, drugs or something for these conditions?  

Yes. One can take inhaled steroids. There are newer prescriptions like montelukast sodium (leukotriene blocker) in tablet form for allergic rhinitis.  


  • Dr YLM graduated as a medical doctor, and has been writing for The Star and other magazines for seven years on various subjects such as medicine, health advice, computers and entertainment. 

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