A runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. Those symptoms could be more than just the common cold. You could have rhinitis, which occurs when the mucous membrane inside your nose becomes irritated and swollen.

There are two main types of rhinitis – allergic and non-allergic. Both are common conditions that affect up to three out of ten people.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, happens when your body overreacts to allergens, or particles in the air. Pollens from tress, grasses and weeds, animal dander and mold are just a few examples. An allergic reaction may include symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes or an itchy throat.

You may experience symptoms throughout the year or only during certain seasons when pollens are worse. Allergies can lead to other issues like sinus and ear infections.

To diagnose allergic rhinitis, your doctor may order a skin test or lab tests. A skin test involves putting a small amount of allergen into your skin to see if it causes a reaction.

There is no cure for allergic rhinitis, but your symptoms can be improved with over-the-counter allergy medicines. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) or drops under your tongue (sublingual immunotherapy) may also be an option for reducing and preventing symptoms. Talk to your doctor about what works best for you.

Non-Allergic Rhinitis

Non-allergic rhinitis can be caused by infection, changes in weather, dry air, certain medicines, hormone changes, alcohol use and aging. Symptoms can be long-lasting or brief and may include runny or stuffy nose, drainage (postnasal drip) and sneezing.

There are things you can do to help reduce your symptoms, which include rinsing your nasal passages with saline, using a neti pot to stream salt water through your nostrils or taking over-the-counter nasal medicine. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend prescription medicine. Be sure to take it as directed.

If medications are not working, a surgical procedure to shrink the structures in your nose may be an alternative.

Mercy allergists and ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists can help determine what’s triggering your symptoms and recommend the best ways to keep them under control.

Don’t suffer with a stuffy nose. Talk to your Mercy doctor about treatment options that will help keep you living life to the fullest.

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