Rhinitis, runny nose, sniffles

A runny nose (rhinitis) is usually the symptom of a cold.

Overview

A runny nose (rhinitis) is usually the symptom of a cold. Chronic rhinitis can be caused by the persistent inflammation of the nasal mucosa. Allergic rhinitis is a seasonal condition (pollen) or caused by contact with other allergy triggers. Typical symptoms include nasal discharge (mucus) and a blocked nose. General hygiene measures (e.g. washing the hands) can have a preventive effect.

Symptoms

Infectious rhinitis

  • Mucus is initially white and watery, and later yellowish, gummy, slimy
  • Blocked nasal passages (breathing through the mouth)
  • Sneezing
  • Reduced sense of smell and taste
Complications
Allergic rhinitis
  • Mucus is clear, liquid
  • Recurrent violent sneezing
  • Severe itching (nose, eyes, throat)
  • Red, swollen, burning eyes
Chronic rhinitis
  • Whitish, slimy to gummy mucus
  • Blocked, swollen nasal passages (breathing through the nose is restricted)
  • Mainly breathing through the mouth
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Causes and treatment

Cause

  • Infectious rhinitis
    • Various viruses, bacteria for secondary infections
  • Allergic rhinitis
    • Pollen (seasonal)
    • Animal hair, mould fungi, house dust mites, food
  • Medication-induced rhinitis
    • Long-term use of anti-swelling nasal sprays/drops
    • Medication for heart disease, psychotropic drugs and hormone preparations

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Allergy test to identify triggers
  • Examination of nose, if necessary
Possible therapies

Infectious rhinitis

  • Inhalation with salt water
  • Nasal irrigation with salt water
  • Anti-swelling nasal sprays (max. 5 days)
  • Nasal ointment

Allergic rhinitis

  • Avoid allergy triggers
  • Nasal irrigation with salt water
  • Medication containing cortisone or antihistamines (nasal spray, eye drops - read package inserts)
  • Immunotherapy (hyposensitisation)

What can I do myself?

  • Nasal care (nasal irrigation, inhalation with salt water, nasal ointment)
  • Wash hands regularly / use hand sanitiser
  • Only use paper tissues once, then throw away
  • Cough and sneeze into the crook of the elbow (not the hand)
  • Avoid allergy triggers
  • Cool swollen eyes
  • Don’t smoke

When to see a doctor?

  • Worsening of symptoms (fever, nasal discharge, pain)
  • Secondary infection with bacteria: tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia (in the context of infectious rhinitis)
  • Allergic rhinitis
    • Symptoms constantly grow worse (adjust treatment)
  • Chronic rhinitis: treatment of sinusitis by ear, nose and throat specialist, if necessary
  • Medication-induced rhinitis: to change the medication

Further information

Swiss Allergy Centre (Allergiezentrum Schweiz)
www.aha.ch

Synonyms

rhinitis, runny nose, sniffles

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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