The common cold and chronic rhinitis are two different conditions that affect the nasal passages. While the common cold is often dismissed as a minor inconvenience, chronic rhinitis is a long-term inflammation of the nasal passages and can significantly impact the quality of life due to its persistent symptoms and discomfort. As both these conditions have overlapping symptoms, it can be difficult to differentiate between them. However, they have distinct causes, duration, and treatment approaches.

common cold vs chronic rhinitis AHSImage by AHS

AHS, one of the largest specialist clinic groups in Singapore, aims to raise awareness about the different types of chronic rhinitis and the red flag symptoms that warrant medical attention.

Chronic rhinitis can be broadly divided into Allergic and Non-Allergic Rhinitis:

Allergic Rhinitis (AR): Often triggered by allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, AR causes symptoms like sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, and watery eyes. It can significantly impact quality of life if not managed properly.

Non-Allergic Rhinitis (NAR): Unlike AR, NAR is not triggered by allergens but can be caused by irritants like smoke, strong odours, changes in weather, or hormonal factors. Symptoms include nasal congestion, postnasal drip, and sneezing.

chronic rhinitis vs common cold AHSImage by AHS

Diagnostic Challenges in Chronic Rhinitis

Distinguishing between AR and NAR can be challenging due to overlapping symptoms. Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management.

Treatments for AR and NAR: Treatment options for rhinitis include allergen avoidance, medications (such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, and decongestants), and in severe cases, allergen immunotherapy.

Red Flag Symptoms

Certain symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition and should prompt immediate medical attention. These include unilateral nasal obstruction, persistent bleeding or crusting, persistent watery nasal discharge, and unilateral facial pain or swelling.

Contributed by Alex Tham – New ENT Specialist at Asian Healthcare Specialists AHS.

Dr Alex is experienced in Advanced Rhinology, addressing nose and sinus diseases, and Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery, collaborating with neurosurgery colleagues to remove brain tumours through the nose. His special interest lies in medical issues like snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, and his expertise in treating ear, nose, and throat conditions, including hearing loss, allergic rhinitis, and neck lumps.

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