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Conditions InDepth: Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is irritation and swelling in the nose. It is caused by an overreaction of the immune system. An allergen, something that should be harmless, is inhaled through the nose. The allergen triggers mast cells to release histamine. This leads to swelling of blood vessels and tissue that lines the nose and sinuses. This starts a chain of events that cause:

  • Runny or itchy nose
  • Watery, itchy, or red eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

The most common allergens come from grasses, trees, weeds, or animals.

Allergic Rhinitis With Severe Swelling of the Nasal Tissues

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Types of Allergic Rhinitis

There are 2 types:

  • Seasonal—Happens mainly in the spring, summer, or early fall. Causes are from grasses, trees, weeds, or mold spores in the air.
  • Perennial—Happens year-round. Common causes are dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, or mold spores. Food allergies may also cause this type of allergic rhinitis.

Problems Linked to Allergic Rhinitis

Allergies are mild but annoying in most. It can cause or worsen:


Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated July 9, 2018. Accessed February 14, 2020.

Allergic rhinitis treatment. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website. Available at: Updated March 2018. Accessed February 14, 2020.

Allergy shots. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: Accessed February 14, 2020.

Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD