The purpose of the nose is to warm, clean, and humidify the air you breathe as well as help you to smell and taste. A normal person will produce about two quarts of fluid each day (mucus), which aids in keeping the respiratory tract clean and moist. Tiny microscopic hairs (cilia) line the surfaces of the nasal cavity, helping to brush away particles. Eventually the mucus blanket is moved to the back of the throat where it is unconsciously swallowed. This entire process is closely regulated by several body systems.
Structurally, the nose is separated into two passageways (left and right nostrils) by a structure called the septum. Protruding into each breathing passage are bony projections, called turbinates, which help to increase the surface area of the inside of the nose. There are three turbinates on each side of the nose (inferior or lower turbinates, middle turbinates, superior or upper turbinates). The sinuses are four paired, air-filled chambers which empty into the nasal cavity. Their purpose is not really known, but may help to lighten the skull, reducing its weight.
What causes rhinitis?
Rhinitis has many possible causes. Rhinitis can be either acute or chronic.
Allergic rhinitis is a very common cause of rhinitis. It is caused by allergies and is characterized by an itchy/runny nose, sneezing, and nasal congestion. Other allergic symptoms include:
itchy ears and throat,
Eustachian tube problems (the tube connecting the inner ear to the back of the throat),
fatigue/loss of concentration/lack of energy from loss of sleep, and
headaches or facial tenderness.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is usually caused by pollen in the air, and sensitive patients have symptoms during peak times during the year.
Perennial allergic rhinitis, a type of chronic rhinitis is a year-round problem, and is often caused by indoor allergens (particles that cause allergies), such as dust and animal dander in addition to pollens that may exist at the time. Symptoms tend to occur regardless of the time of the year.
# Over-the-counter medications are highly effective treatments for chronic rhinitis. Antihistamines control allergy symptoms such as post nasal drip, itchy eyes and sore throat; and decongestants alleviate nasal congestion by clearing the nasal passages. In the case of severe rhinitis, symptoms might not respond to OTC medications. Make a doctor's appointment and ask for a prescription allergy medication. If necessary, your doctor might administer a corticosteroid to treat nasal inflammation and control symptoms.
# Humidifiers moisten the air in your home, and this is an effective treatment for chronic rhinitis. Place a humidifier in your home or office. The moist, warm air gradually thins mucus and reduces congestion in your head, nose and chest. If you don't have a humidifier, sit in a steam room or take a hot shower.
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Drink Plenty of Fluids
# Fluids --- especially water --- can also loosen mucus in your body and relieve congestion. Drink plenty of water (between eight and ten glasses a day). Other options include juices (orange or cranberry) and non-caffeinated beverages such as decaf tea. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, sodas and certain teas can make your symptoms worse.
# Certain scents or fragrances can trigger chronic rhinitis symptoms. Attempt to identify irritants that cause your allergy symptoms. These can include shampoos, home fragrances, soaps, perfumes and body lotions. Additionally, household cleaning chemicals and cigarette smoke can cause symptoms of rhinitis; and during the spring or summer, certain flowers and trees can produce allergy symptoms.
# Dust and pet dander can contribute to chronic rhinitis. Maintain an allergen-free home or office by frequently vacuuming the floors and removing dust. An air purifier can remove allergens in the air, and keeping your windows closed during allergy season can stop pollen and other outdoor irritants from entering the home. Wash your bedding weekly, and periodically wash stuffed animals and pillows.
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