Irritants vs. Allergies

In some people, allergy-like symptoms can be triggered, not by a true “allergen” but by an “irritant.” This condition is called vasomotor rhinitis and can be very similar to its cousin allergic rhinitis. Irritants can also trigger asthma-like symptoms as well.

Common irritants include:

  • Smoke—This can be tobacco smoke or smoke from wood burning stoves, grills or fires
  • Diesel or gasoline fumes
  • Strong odors—This can be from perfumes, chemicals, cleaning agents, paint, hair spray, room air fresheners and insecticides
  • Cold air—Cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when going outside into the cold air

While symptoms of vasomotor rhinitis and asthma can be treated with medicines, avoiding the irritant whenever possible is your best first line of defense.