Rhinitis, runny nose, sniffles

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


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.


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
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


  • 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)


rhinitis, runny nose, sniffles

Exclusion of liability

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.