Runny Nose (Rhinitis)

Rhinitis is a reaction that occurs in the eyes, nose and throat when airborne irritants (allergens) trigger the release of histamine.  (Histamine is the chemical your body produces when you are having an allergic reaction. Although there is always some histamine in your body, exposure to an irritant causes your body to release more histamine.)  Histamine causes inflammation and fluid production in the lining of the nasal passages, the sinuses and the eyelids. 

There are two different types of rhinitis, allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis. 

The most common causes of allergic rhinitis are pollen, dust mites, mold and animal dander.  Non-allergic rhinitis can be triggered by exposure to fumes, certain odors, atmospheric changes or other irritants. No matter the source of the irritant, the body’s reaction includes sneezing, congestion, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.

Treatments for rhinitis may include oral medications, inhaled medications, and immunotherapy (allergy injections), and in the case of non-allergic rhinitis, simple avoidance may be prescribed.

Nasal Polyps

A nasal polyp is a soft, painless, non-cancerous growth on the lining of the nose or sinus.  Nasal polyps arise from inflammation in the nose and are often related to allergies.  Polyps are usually benign but can mask a more serious problem. 

Small nasal polyps may not cause any symptoms.  However, larger growths or multiple polyps may lead to breathing problems and frequent infections.  Sometimes polyps will respond to medical treatment, which can shrink or eliminate the polyp altogether but surgical removal is often required in addition to medications for controlling the development of further polyps.  Unfortunately, nasal polyps often recur, even with the appropriate treatment.

Sleep Apnea

Snoring occurs when there is an obstruction to the free flow of air through the passages in the back of the mouth and nose.  Snoring can be serious because it disturbs sleeping patterns and deprives the snorer of appropriate rest.  When snoring is severe, it can cause a variety of long-term health problems such as hypertension and headaches.  Children that snore may experience poor concentration or bedwetting. This condition is called obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA).

When an individual’s throat becomes completely blocked during sleep, it causes sleep apnea.  Signs and symptoms may include stopped breathing for short periods, very loud snoring followed by very quiet periods, and gasping or snorting during sleep. 

Individuals with sleep apnea may feel drowsy during the day; wake up tired even after a full night of rest; wake up with a headache; be cranky or have a short temper; have problems with memory and concentration; or fall asleep at inappropriate times.

Snoring and sleep apnea can be treated.  Treatment may include lifestyle changes, medical devices, or surgery.  If left untreated, sleep apnea can have long-term health effects such as elevated blood pressures and heart enlargement.


The nose is an area of the body that contains many tiny blood vessels that can easily break.  Nosebleeds are a common condition. Approximately 15-percent of people will develop a nosebleed sometime during their lifetimes. Nosebleeds are most common in children aged 2-10 years and adults aged 50-80 years. 

Physicians classify nosebleeds into two different types – Anterior, bleeding from the front of the nose and Posterior, bleeding from the back of the nose.

Anterior Nosebleed: Most nosebleeds begin in the lower part of the nasal septum near the nostrils.  The septum contains small blood vessels that can be easily traumatized. This type of nosebleed begins with a flow of blood out of one nostril when the patient is sitting or standing. Anterior nosebleeds are common in dry climates or during the winter months when heated, dry indoor air dehydrates the nasal membranes.  Keeping the nasal passages moist can help to prevent recurring nosebleeds.

Posterior Nosebleed: More rarely, a nosebleed can begin high and deep within the nose and flow down the back of the mouth and throat, even if the patient is sitting or standing. These types of nosebleeds are often more severe and usually require a physician’s care. Posterior nosebleeds are more likely to occur in older people, persons with high blood pressure, and in cases of injury to the nose or face. Many active nosebleeds can be stopped at the doctor’s office with cautery followed by a nasal pack.

American Academy of Otolaryngology

For more information on these and other ENT conditions visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology’s website.


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