What is rhinitis?

What is rhinitis?

a. A few words about the nose

The functions fulfilled by the nose are very important and at times vital. An inability to smell, for instance, can prove a very dangerous dysfunction, since the person loses the capability of being forewarned about potential dangers by certain smells, such as smoke or food that has gone bad. Besides smell, the nose performs other functions:

  • It is a natural air conditioner for inhaled air. As the air passes through the nose, it warms or cools it; it humidifies and clears away dust particles and various microorganisms.
  • It protects the lungs and our whole body since it retains, recognises and destroys germs and various other allergy producing substances (e.g. pollen), in this way taking part in the production of antibodies, thus in the body’s immunity.
  • It is part of various automatic reflexes such as coughing and sneezing, which aim to forcefully remove foreign substances from our body.
  • It participates in the production of the voice.

b. A few words about rhinitis

What is it?

It is an overreaction of the nasal mucous membrane (chiefly of the nasal conchae) to diverse irritations, resulting in hypertrophy (enlargement).

Nasal conchae

What causes them?

We do not know the exact mechanism that causes them. We do know, however, quite a few factors that may trigger or worsen them:

  • Allergies
  • Hyperactive or fragile people tend to get them more often
  • Smoking, passive smoking and alcohol exacerbate the condition
  • Various medications (e.g. medications for high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease and heart disease), as well as topical sprays, ointments and nose drops
  • Smog, polluted air in the workplace, dryness as well as excessive humidity or heat
  • A workplace environment that has substances that are inhaled, such as particles from paper or leather, sawdust or chromium, nickel, copper or formaldehyde
  • Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) and quite often, pregnancy.

What are the symptoms?

The most bothersome is the feeling that your nose is plugged up, which as a rule, is not permanent and usually occurs at night. At times there is watery discharge even though the nose is generally dry. In the morning, the nose is usually full of discharge. A feeling of stuffiness and pain in the face may occur as well. Headaches and bouts of sneezing are not rare.

What problems can it cause?

When the nose is plugged up, the air we breathe comes through the mouth making both the mouth and throat dry, which is most noticeable in the morning. The patient often snores. Respiratory illnesses (such as viral infections, tonsillitis and sinusitis) are more frequent in patients with rhinitis since they cannot breathe through their nose and thus the inhaled air is not “cleaned”.

c. Treatment of rhinitis

Treatment of rhinitis begins in close collaboration with your doctor in order to determine all possible causes (including allergies) which could trigger or worsen your symptoms. The most effective therapy is to avoid those factors. This is not so easy though, since quite often neither the exact causes are found (which most of the time are more than one), nor is it easy to avoid them.

1. Medicinal treatment.

Initially the patient is given a steroid topical spray in combination with softening ointments and perhaps a decongestant. There have been cases though, when the symptoms return after such therapy. If this occurs the patient and doctor should discuss a more effective solution.

2. Surgical treatment.

A great advancement in the treatment of enlarged nasal conchae is the use of radio-frequencies. This method is quite simple; the nasal conchae are shrunken without requiring general anesthesia because the pain is so slight (since the nasal mucous membrane is not destroyed by high temperatures as with cauterization or Laser). It does not need a nasal packing, hospitalization or special after-surgery care. The “surgery” occurs under local anesthesia and lasts about 20 minutes. The patient remains in the hospital for about 1-2 hours, and then can return to normal activities. In event of the coexistence of deviated nasal septum, it is recommended that it be corrected with septoplasty under general anesthesia at the same time.

d. Useful information

If you suffer from this kind of rhinitis (vasomotor rhinitis), you should read carefully the advice below:

Determine the conditions that worsen your condition and try, as far as possible, to avoid them. Air conditioning, central heating, a dry atmosphere, sudden changes in temperature and room deodorizers are all causes which are blamed most often.

If you smoke, you need to cut down dramatically. Even being in places with a lot of smoke can make your symptoms much worse.

Alcohol causes similar reactions as cigarettes. Therefore, do not overdo it.

Determine whether, in your work environment, your home or your free time activities you come into contact with substances mentioned above. If so, try to avoid them.

e. Practical suggestions

Place a damp towel or container with a little water on the radiator. Do not sleep with the air conditioner on (summer or winter) because it makes the atmosphere very dry. Leave your bedroom door a little open at night.

If your nose is very ‘stuffed’, inhaling steam enriched with eucalyptus oil can give you relief. All you have to do (just before you go to bed) is put 4-5 drops of eucalyptus oil in a little simmering water and try to inhale it (after first cleaning your nose with a little natural saline).

Avoiding anxiety is easy advice to give, but not so easy to follow. A stuffy nose may be the least of a stressed person’s problems.

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