Vasomotor Rhinitis


What is vasomotor rhinitis?

Vasomotor rhinitis refers to a condition in which the nose is stuffy or runny for reasons other than allergies or infections. Vasomotor rhinitis affects millions of Americans every year. In many cases, the cause of vasomotor rhinitis is not known, but triggers include emotions, odors, poor air quality, spicy foods, and medication side effects.

The symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis can occur very frequently or sporadically. Symptoms include drainage of the nose (rhinorrhea), congestion, and irritation.

While there is no cure for rhinitis, it is treatable. In fact, it is one of the most common chronic disorders in America, leading to treatment costs in the billions of dollars annually. Medical treatments include antihistamines, corticosteroids, anticholinergics, and occasionally decongestants. The most effective treatment for vasomotor rhinitis, however, appears to be avoidance of triggers, such as polluted air or spicy foods.

Seek prompt medical care for vasomotor rhinitis if your symptoms are persistent and interfere with your daily life.


What are the symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis?

Symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis include persistent or sporadic congestion or runny nose. Less common symptoms include sneezing and irritation.

Common symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis

You may experience vasomotor rhinitis symptoms daily or just once in a while. At times any of these symptoms can be severe:

  • Nasal drainage (rhinorrhea)
  • Nasal irritation
  • Nasal itching (nasal pruritus)
  • Runny nose (nasal congestion)
  • Sneezing

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, vasomotor rhinitis can result in serious symptoms. Seek prompt medical care if you have severe pain or excessive, persistent nasal drainage that interferes with daily life.


What causes vasomotor rhinitis?

The exact cause of vasomotor rhinitis is not known, even though certain triggers are common. It is important to distinguish between allergic rhinitis and vasomotor rhinitis, as a runny or stuffy nose in allergic rhinitis is caused by a reaction to a specific allergen. In vasomotor rhinitis, triggers that lead to symptoms are much more general.

What are the risk factors for vasomotor rhinitis?

The risk factors for developing vasomotor rhinitis are not known. However, the symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis can be triggered by a variety of causes including:

  • Alcohol use
  • Asthma
  • Certain odors, such as smoke or perfume
  • Dry air
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Injury to the nose
  • Polluted air
  • Spicy food
  • Strong emotion

Reducing your risk of vasomotor rhinitis

While the cause of vasomotor rhinitis is unknown, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing symptoms by:

  • Avoiding polluted air
  • Avoiding triggers such as spicy foods
  • Engaging in regular physical activity to open up the airways


How is vasomotor rhinitis treated?

Treatments for vasomotor rhinitis are aimed at reducing congestion and preventing rhinorrhea (drainage). The most effective treatment in many cases, however, is simply avoiding triggers. There are both nasal and oral medical treatments for vasomotor rhinitis.

Nasal sprays for vasomotor rhinitis

Nasal sprays may be helpful for the treatment of the symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis. Nasal sprays can contain different types of drugs including:

  • Anticholinergics, such as ipratropium (Atrovent), to control symptoms related to autonomic nervous system dysfunction
  • Antihistamines, such as azelastine (Astelin), to suppress sensitivity to environmental triggers
  • Corticosteroids, such as mometasone furoate (Nasonex), budesonide (Rhinocort), or beclomethasone (Beclovent), to relieve congestion
  • Cromolyn (Intal) to control runny nose

Oral medications for vasomotor rhinitis

Oral medications may also be used to treat vasomotor rhinitis including:

  • Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and chlorphenamine (Chlor-Trimeton)
  • Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or loratadine (Claritin)

What you can do to improve your vasomotor rhinitis

In addition to avoiding triggers for your symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis, you may be able to improve your condition by engaging in regular physical activity to open up airways.

What are the potential complications of vasomotor rhinitis?

While complications of vasomotor rhinitis are rare, it is possible for the condition to lead to other conditions of the respiratory system. Complications of untreated vasomotor rhinitis can be serious. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of vasomotor rhinitis include:

  • Airway irritation
  • Sinusitis (inflammation or infection of the sinuses)


  1. Vasomotor rhinitis. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  2. Vasomotor rhinitis. American Family Physician.
  3. Kaliner MA. Nonallergic rhinopathy (formerly known as vasomotor rhinitis). Immunol Allergy Clin North Am 2011; 31:441.
  4. Westman M, Stjärne P, Asarnoj A, et al. Natural course and comorbidities of allergic and nonallergic rhinitis in children. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2012; 129:403.

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