Nasal congestion is one of the common cold symptoms, it can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. The common causes of nasal congestion are infections such as colds, flu, or sinusitis and rhinitis. Sometimes a congested and runny nose can also be caused by irritants such as smoke from tobacco products and car exhaust.
Potential causes of nasal congestion include:
• Acute sinusitis (infection of the nose and sinuses)
• Chronic sinusitis
• Common cold
• Foreign body (pollen, dust mites or mold) in the nose
• Food, especially spicy dishes
• Dry air, etc.
Rhinitis vs. Sinusitis
The two common respiratory illnesses that can make people feel like they have a cold are Rhinitis and sinusitis. Before discussing the difference between the two, let's compare the definitions of both conditions:
- Rhinitis: Inflammation of the mucus membrane in the nose
- Sinusitis: Inflammation in the cavities surrounding the nasal passages (sinuses, which are air-filled tissues around the nose)
While these two conditions may sound similar, there is quite a bit of difference between them! Let’s explore those differences to help you better understand how to tell if you have one or both.
What is Rhinitis? And what causes rhinitis?
Rhinitis is the inflammation of the nose and nasal passages which can lead to sneezing, congestion, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat (postnasal drip), itchy eyes, and sometimes snoring. Allergic rhinitis is the most common type of rhinitis that is typically differentiated from the numerous types of non-allergic rhinitis through a thorough history and physical examination. Allergic rhinitis may be seasonal, perennial, or occupational. On the other hand, the most common cause of non-allergic rhinitis is an acute viral infection. Other types of non-allergic rhinitis include vasomotor, hormonal, drug-induced, structural, and occupational (irritant) rhinitis.
Many things can cause Rhinitis, including allergies, temperature changes due to seasons, or weather conditions like sudden changes in pressure. One in four people suffers from some form of allergy, resulting in their body's immune system overreacting by attacking harmless substances in the environment, such as dust mites, pollen, and animal dander.
What is Sinusitis? And what causes sinusitis?
Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses. This inflammation in these air-filled tissues around the nose can cause similar symptoms to rhinitis, such as nasal congestion, postnasal drip, sore throat, itchy eyes, or snoring. The main difference between sinusitis and rhinitis is that people with sinusitis will experience the same symptoms for more than two months a year without any seasonal changes associated with it. It’s vital not to confuse between these two conditions as they are treated quite differently. If you suspect that your child may have either one or both of these respiratory conditions, see an ear, nose, and throat specialist as soon as possible.
The most common cause of sinusitis is when bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Haemophilus influenzae infect the nasal passages or spread from other parts of the body into these air-filled tissues, such as tooth infections (fungal infections can also cause sinusitis). People with chronic conditions are more likely to develop bacterial sinusitis because they may have difficulties clearing their nose, which allows any respiratory pathogens lurking within their environment access into these delicate areas.
Compare the following symptoms to see if you have nasal allergies or a possible sinus infection. It’s also possible to have both conditions at the same time.
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