What is Perennial Rhinitis?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Rhinitis is inflammation of the sinuses that usually results in symptoms like nasal congestion or runny or stuffy nose. When people have conditions like hay fever that cause these symptoms for part of the year, this might be called allergic rhinitis. If congestion and runny nose are almost always present this can be referred to as perennial rhinitis or perennial allergic rhinitis. Allergies to substance present year round are a primary cause.

Perennial rhinitis is commonly misdiagnosed as a succession of colds.
Perennial rhinitis is commonly misdiagnosed as a succession of colds.

People may not realize that constant congestion is perennial rhinitis. Instead, the condition is often misdiagnosed as a succession of colds that can very frequently present with sinus infections. Doctors are likely to investigate frequent “colds.” There are conditions a physician might want to rule out too, and these could include presence of nasal polyps, deviated septum, reaction to certain medications, and chronic infection.

Pets may cause chronic rhinitis in some people.
Pets may cause chronic rhinitis in some people.

When other causal factors don’t exist, diagnosis of this kind of rhinitis might be made based on symptoms. These include chronic runny or congested nose and other allergy-type symptoms like itchy eyes. Most often, the nasal tissue is most affected and nasal congestion is the predominant symptom.

Perennial rhinitis may result in a runny nose.
Perennial rhinitis may result in a runny nose.

There are several ways to treat this condition. The most direct of these is to offer medication to treat the symptoms. Medication could include daily use of antihistamines or prescription nasal sprays that contain antihistamines or corticosteroids. These can begin to have an immediate effect on symptoms, reducing nasal congestion. Yet they leave out determining cause of allergic reactions, which could be important to consider.

Oral antihistamines may help treat perennial rhinitis.
Oral antihistamines may help treat perennial rhinitis.

Instead of only prescribing antihistamine or steroid treatment, some doctors recommend people undergo allergy testing to determine what substances are resulting in chronic rhinitis. It is true that the most common allergies that cause this condition are to things like pets or dust mites, but there could be other causes. Exposure to certain identified allergens might be partially or totally eliminated rendering use of daily medication unnecessary. This possibility suggests it may make good sense to try to determine cause of allergies.

Daily use of a prescription nasal spray is one possible treatment for perennial rhinitis.
Daily use of a prescription nasal spray is one possible treatment for perennial rhinitis.

People who have chronic rhinitis may also suffer from seasonal allergies or hay fever. Signs of this might include increase in sinus symptoms during peak hay fever periods. Alternately, some people retain the same symptoms year-round with no aggravation of nasal difficulties at any time. In any case, nasal spray or antihistamines address both seasonal and perennial rhinitis.

Perennial rhinitis differs from seasonal allergies because it is caused by allergens that are present all year.
Perennial rhinitis differs from seasonal allergies because it is caused by allergens that are present all year.

It can be said that chronic congestion is not “just normal” behavior of the nose. It is typically not a series of colds, either. This symptom deserves attention, and fortunately if perennial rhinitis is diagnosed, there are many effective treatments. These can greatly increase comfort or fully eliminate problems.

Chronic congestion is not considered "normal" behavior of the nose.
Chronic congestion is not considered "normal" behavior of the nose.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I think that if someone is experiencing perennial rhinitis, allergy testing is the way to go. That way, you can really get to the root of the problem if you have allergies.

I have allergies, and I take an anti-histamine. However, the anti-histamine doesn't help for all of my allergies! I still have a pretty bad reaction to dogs, even when I'm on medication.

So, if you know what your allergies are, you can make sure not to expose yourself to the allergens. If you just go straight to anti-histamines, you're really just making a shot in the dark!


@SZapper - I have allergies also, and sometimes they do take a little while to diagnose. I'm glad you are able to get some relief from your symptoms though!

I'm also a little bit surprised that physical issues can cause non-allergic rhinitis. I had no idea that just having a polyp in your nose can cause this! It makes sense that allergies or a chronic infection could result in all this suffering, but I'm surprised that a small lump in the nose can do that too!


I had perennial allergic rhinitis symptoms as a kid. Well, that's what it turned out to be anyway. At first, my mom just thought I had a lot of colds. We all know that little kids don't have strong immune systems yet, so they get sick a lot!

She actually took me to the doctor several times, and the doctor at first also thought I just had a cold. However, when this had been going on for months and month, finally my mom (and my doctor) realized I didn't have a cold.

My doctor had me do allergy testing, and I was diagnosed with a ton of allergies! My doctor put me on antihistamines and we worked to limit my exposure to allergens. Then, my perennial rhinitis finally went away!


The only form of perennial rhinitis treatment I use is daily antihistamines. The problem is that my body can become tolerant of them over many months, so I have to switch them out periodically.

I take an antihistamine that is supposed to provide relief for 24 hours. When I first started taking, I was amazed at how much better I felt. The sneezing and congestion went away, and I could breathe through my nose, which I hadn’t been able to do in a long time.

However, after a few months on the drug, it became ineffective. My doctor actually told me that switching to a different one would help, and she also said that once the new one stopped working, I could switch back.

The new drug worked great for a few months, but lately, my symptoms have returned. I think it’s time to go back to the original antihistamine for awhile.


@wavy58 - It could be that your sister has developed a sudden allergy to milk. It happened to my mother, and we never knew before this that an allergy to dairy can cause severe congestion and fatigue.

She was forty when it happened. For months, she walked around sniffing and blowing her nose, trying to get some relief from her clogged sinuses and constant post-nasal drip that irritated her throat. She just felt exhausted all the time from feeling so badly.

She thought she must have perennial allergic rhinitis, because she had read about how it can involve having constant sinus problems. She was surprised when her doctor told her to stop consuming all dairy products for a week and see if she got better.

Amazingly, it worked. So, all she had to do was stay away from dairy.


@wavy58 - My aunt had experienced problems with her nose for decades. She finally decided to ask her doctor if anything could be done.

He determined that she was suffering from perennial nonallergic rhinitis due to a deviated septum. This just meant that the middle of her nose was crooked inside, so mucus and air could not go through it very easily.

This had caused her constant congestion. She had surgery to fix the problem, and she says that it is the best decision she ever made. Though it took her months to recover, she could breathe so much better after the procedure, and the only time she suffers congestion anymore is when she has a bad cold.


My sister has been suffering from congestion and a runny nose for about a year now, and what’s weird is that she has never had allergy problems before. We can’t think of anything different in her life that might be causing the issues, so I’m guessing it isn’t allergy related.

What are some of the causes of perennial nonallergic rhinitis? I just know her constant nasal problems have to have a source other than allergens. She doesn’t have a sore throat or a cough, so I don’t believe she is having multiple colds.


@SailorJerry - I'm glad your friend is getting relief. When my ten-year-old son seemed to have permanent rhinitis symptoms (that is, he always had a runny nose), I thought he was just picking up germs at school and building a strong immune system. And that was probably part of it, but he also turns out to be allergic to pet dander and dust. He refused to part with our dog, but we have made his room an absolute dog-free zone and are working on making it less of a dust haven, too.

But he has a long life ahead of him, so we are also pursuing allergy injections for long-term relief. He has really been a trooper about them and fortunately, he is not reacting to them too badly - no swelling at the injection site - so he, his mother, and I are all in agreement that the minor temporary discomfort will be worth it for the long-lasting relief.


A friend of mine found that creating a "clean room" was really helpful in treating her chronic rhinitis. Allergy testing showed that she was highly allergic to dust mites. She wasn't willing to make her whole house totally spartan, but she did do one room, her bedroom. She got a memory foam mattress and pillow - they are not as susceptible to dust mites as regular mattresses. Took out all the rugs and upholstered furniture, got minimalist, easy-to-clean window coverings. She has a cleaning lady come in every week to dust so that she doesn't have to do it herself.

She says that having a clean room in which to sleep and let her body recover just makes a huge difference in how she feels, even though she is naturally exposed to dust in the rest of her house, at work, etc. She does also take medication.

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