Sussex ENT: Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust
Worthing and Southlands Hospital



What is Rhinitis?

Rhinitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the lining of the nose. It usually involves a blocked, runny or itchy nose and possible bouts of sneezing.

These symptoms may occur throughout the year, or they may be present only occasionally (in Seasonal Rhinitis like hay fever, for example).

For some people the symptoms are a result of allergy (Allergic Rhinitis). Or, in rare cases, the condition may be caused by infection. However, the cause of Rhinitis is often not clear. It may be associated with other problems, such as wheezing (in asthma) and eczema (particularly in children).

What is the treatment?

Investigations are not usually necessary for this condition. Scans or X-rays are only likely to be arranged if it is thought that your sinuses are involved. If you have Allergic Rhinitis, skin tests may be helpful in identifying the cause of your allergy.

Surgery has a minor part to play in this condition, but may be appropriate in a few carefully selected patients. It is seldom possible to actually cure Rhinitis in the long term, so treatment is aimed at helping to control the symptoms through medication in the form of tablets and nasal sprays.

Nasal Sprays

Steroid sprays
These are usually water-based sprays in a pump. Most are designed not to be absorbed by the body in large amounts and are therefore safe for long-term use.

It is important to use these sprays daily – not just when the symptoms are troublesome.

If this kind of spray is prescribed, you may find it takes up to 6 weeks for use before you notice an improvement.

Ipratropium Bromide Spray
This spray will help stop your nose running, but will have no effect on blockage, irritation or sneezing. It is most effective when used regularly.


These act within hours of starting treatment and are most useful for hay fever. Drowsiness is sometimes a problem with this type of medication (though less so with the newer tablets), and the problem is made worse by alcohol. We recommend against drinking alcohol while taking antihistamines.

An important note

Many “over the counter” nasal drops and sprays – Ephedrine®, Otrivine® and Sudafed®, for example – are designed for short-term use only (one to two weeks). Long term use may affect the lining of the nose, leaving it feeling permanently blocked.