Non-allergic rhinitis: hay fever or not? Why some people have symptoms but no allergy

Spring time is hay fever time.

Non-allergic rhinitis: hay fever or not? Why some people have symptoms but no allergy

Spring time is hay fever time. For around 12 million people in Germany, the worst weeks of the year begin with the pollen count. The pollen from hazel, alder, birch and the like ensures that allergy sufferers suffer from symptoms such as itchy eyes, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose and cascades of sneezing for weeks.

But it is not always hay fever when the upper respiratory tract is in turmoil and all symptoms point to hay fever. There are people who have symptoms of an allergy but for whom an allergy test turns out negative. Good advice is often expensive.

In fact, typical allergy symptoms that affect the nose can also be due to non-allergic rhinitis. This persistent cold is a disease caused by inflammation of the nasal mucosa. In most cases, but not exclusively, viruses are responsible. The inflammation causes the mucous membrane to swell and produce more mucus.

The symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis are similar to allergic rhinitis - from itchy nose and sneezing to heavy mucus flow and stuffy nose. The symptoms can occur seasonally but also all year round. Unlike allergic rhinitis, the symptoms are not triggered by an infection or allergens such as pollen, dust mites or animal hair. It is not yet clear what exactly causes the non-allergic persistent cold. A reaction can be caused by a variety of environmental stimuli. The complaints of those affected are just as unspecific. It is estimated that 25 to 50 percent of rhinitis patients are affected by a form of non-allergic rhinitis.

The term non-allergic rhinitis is an umbrella term that includes several forms of cold, all of which have different symptoms and triggers.

This includes hormonal rhinitis that occurs during pregnancy. But also nasal problems that occur in old age (senile rhinitis), after eating spicy foods (gustatory rhinitis), due to certain medications such as anti-rheumatic drugs or beta-blockers (drug-induced rhinitis) and regular contact with certain substances such as chemical vapors at the workplace ( Occupational rhinitis) belongs to the group of non-allergic inflammations of the nasal mucosa.

Idiopathic rhinitis occurs most frequently, i.e. a persistent cold that is not due to “one” trigger. is attributable. For some it is cigarette smoke, for others it is a strong smell of food or perfume, for others the runny nose is caused by temperature changes or stress.

If non-allergic rhinitis causes symptoms affecting the eyes, such as tears or burning, it is referred to as non-specific conjunctivitis. If the bronchi are affected by hypersensitivity, this is referred to as non-specific bronchial hyperactivity. Her symptoms include shortness of breath and cough.

Non-allergic rhinitis is not a life-threatening condition. However, the persistent cold can still be a stress test for those affected and severely restrict their everyday life. The non-allergic persistent cold is varied and can be very individual. If symptoms persist, you should consult a doctor so that optimal treatment - sometimes with medication - is possible.

But those affected can also do a few things to alleviate their symptoms:

Sources: Robert Koch Institute, National Library of Medicine, Cochrane Library, Quarks, MSD Manuals, My Allergy Portal