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Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

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This information was reviewed and approved by Rafeul Alam, MD, PhD (2/29/2020).

In the United States, between 30 and 60 million people suffer from a runny or stuffy nose each year. This is a problem known as rhinitis. There are several types of rhinitis, including allergic rhinitis.


It's important to know about the different types of rhinitis, because often a person has more than one type for a physician to diagnose and treat.

Allergic Rhinitis

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (more commonly known as hay fever) is mainly an allergy caused by outdoor allergens, such as tree, grass and weed pollens, as well as some mold spores. If you sneeze and have a runny or stuffy nose during the spring, summer or fall allergy seasons, you may have hay fever. Hay fever is the most common type of allergy problem, and symptoms include sneezing; itching; runny or stuffy nose; and red, watery eyes.

Read about treatment for hay fever, and learn answers to frequently asked questions.


Nonallergic Rhinitis

This type of rhinitis is not as well understood. Although not triggered by allergy, the symptoms are often the same as seen with allergic rhinitis. Allergy skin test results are negative. Nasal polyps may also be seen with this type of rhinitis.


Vasomotor Rhinitis

Common symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis include nasal congestion and postnasal drip. A person with this type of rhinitis may have symptoms when exposed to temperature and humidity changes. Symptoms may also occur with exposure to smoke, strong odors, including perfumes, and emotional upsets. Vasomotor rhinitis is not caused by allergy. However, it may occur in people who also have allergic rhinitis.


Infectious Rhinitis

This can occur as a cold, which may clear rapidly or continue with symptoms longer than a week. Some people may also develop an acute or chronic bacterial sinus infection. Symptoms include an increased amount of colored (yellow-green) and thickened nasal discharge and nasal congestion.


Rhinitis Medicamentosa

This type of rhinitis is seen with long-term use of decongestant nasal sprays or recreational use of cocaine. Symptoms may include nasal congestion and postnasal drip. Decongestant nasal sprays are intended for short-term use only. Overuse can cause rebound nasal congestion. It is very important for a person with rebound congestion to work closely with a doctor to gradually decrease the nasal spray.


Mechanical Obstruction

This is most often seen with a deviated septum or enlarged adenoids. Symptoms often include nasal obstruction, which may be one-sided.



This type of rhinitis is often seen with changes in the hormones. This often occurs during pregnancy, puberty, menses or hypothyroidism. A very common cause of rhinitis is pregnancy. Symptoms include significant nasal congestion.

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  • Rafeul Alam

    Rafeul Alam, MD, PhD

  • Mark Boguniewicz

    Mark Boguniewicz, MD

  • Donna L. Bratton

    Donna L. Bratton, MD

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    Jordan Bull, PA-C

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    Cameran Collins, PA-C

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    Rohit K. Katial, MD

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    Ashoke (“Ash”) Khanwalkar, MD

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    Bruce J. Lanser, MD, MPH

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    James K. O'Brien, MD, FACP, FCCP

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    Eileen Wang, MD, MPH