Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Complications - Allergic rhinitis

If you have allergic rhinitis, there's a risk you could develop other problems.

A blocked or runny nose can cause:

Allergic rhinitis can also make symptoms of asthma worse.

The swelling in the nose can also sometimes cause other conditions. These include nasal polyps, sinusitis and middle ear infections.

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are swellings that grow in the small cavities above and behind your nose and in the lining inside your nose or sinuses.

They're caused by inflammation of the membranes of the nose. They sometimes develop as a result of rhinitis.

Nasal polyps are shaped like teardrops when they're growing and look like a grape on a stem when fully grown.

They vary in size and can be yellow, grey or pink. They can grow on their own or in clusters and usually affect both nostrils.

If they grow large enough, or in clusters, they can affect your breathing and reduce your sense of smell. They can cause sinusitis if they block your sinuses.

Treatment for small nasal polyps is steroid nasal sprays. The spray shrinks the polyps so they do not block your nose.

Treatment for large polyps is usually surgery.


Sinusitis is a common complication of rhinitis. It's where the sinuses become inflamed or infected.

The sinuses produce mucus, which usually drains into your nose through small channels.

Rhinitis or nasal polyps can block these channels. The mucus cannot drain away and may become infected.

Common symptoms of sinusitis include:

  • a blocked nose, making it difficult to breathe through your nose
  • a runny nose
  • mucus that drips from the back of your nose down your throat
  • a reduced sense of smell or taste
  • a feeling of fullness, pressure or pain in the face
  • snoring
  • your airways becoming blocked while you're asleep. This can disturb your sleep (obstructive sleep apnoea)

Treating sinusitis

Middle ear infections

Middle ear infections can also be a complication of nasal problems such as allergic rhinitis. The middle ear is the part of the ear behind the eardrum.

These infections can happen if rhinitis causes a problem with the Eustachian tube. This tube connects the back of the nose and middle ear, at the back of the nose.

If this tube does not function properly, fluid can build up in the middle ear and become infected.

Infection at the back of the nose can also spread to the ear through the Eustachian tube.

The main symptoms of a middle ear infection include:

  • earache
  • a high temperature
  • being sick
  • a lack of energy
  • slight hearing loss

Ear infections often clear up within a couple of days. But you can use paracetamol or ibuprofen to help relieve fever and pain.

Your GP may prescribe antibiotics if your symptoms are severe or don't go away.

Ear infections

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 25 March 2021
Next review due: 25 March 2024