Allergic Rhinitis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Overview

Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is the inflammation inside the nose caused by an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mould, or flakes of skin from certain animals. Allergic rhinitis occurs when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment. These are allergy symptoms that often develop with the change of seasons. Allergic rhinitis takes two different forms: seasonal allergic rhinitis, which usually occurs during the spring and fall season, and perennial allergic rhinitis, which can occur year round.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), nearly 8 percent of adults in the United States experience allergic rhinitis of some kind and between 10 and 30 percent of the worldwide population have allergic rhinitis.

Causes

Commonly, allergic rhinitis is caused by the immune system reacting to an allergen. This results in cells releasing a number of chemicals that cause the inside layer of your nose to become swollen and excessive levels of mucus to be produced.

There are several types of allergens, including outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, trees and weeds, indoor allergens, such as pet hair or dander, dust mites and mold, and irritants, such as cigarette smoke, perfume, and diesel exhaust. Types of allergens that cause allergic rhinitis vary from person to person and from area to area.

In addition, allergic rhinitis often runs in families. If both of your parents have allergic rhinitis, you are likely to have it too. There is an increased risk if your mother has allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms

Most people with allergic rhinitis have mild symptoms that can be easily and effectively treated. In some cases, the symptoms can be severe and persistent, causing sleep problems and interfering with everyday life.

The main symptoms of allergic rhinitis are similar to having a cold, such as sneezing, itchiness and a blocked or runny nose. These symptoms often start soon after being exposed to an allergen. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis occasionally improve over time with medications, but this can take many years. However, it is unlikely that the condition will disappear completely.

Other common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore or scratchy throat
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Frequent headaches
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Eczema-type symptoms, such as having extremely dry, itchy skin that can blister and weep hives

Diagnosis

To diagnose allergic rhinitis, the doctor may perform certain tests to figure out the best treatment and prevention plan. These tests may include:

  • Skin prick test. It is one of the most common measures. The doctor places several pricks or scratches with tiny amounts of a possible allergen onto your skin to see how your body reacts to each one. If a small red bump appears within a few minutes, you’re allergic to the allergen.
  • Blood test, or radioallergosorbent test (RAST). The RAST measures the amount of immunoglobulin E antibodies to particular allergens in your blood.
  • Nasal swab. It is used to test fluid from your nose for allergic disease.
  • Rhinoscopy. It is a procedure used to check for another cause of your symptoms, such as polyps or a foreign object. The doctor will use a thin tube with a camera on the end to look inside your nose.

Treatment

Allergic rhinitis can be treated in several ways, such as medications and home remedies. The most important part of prevention is to take steps to reduce exposure to a particular allergen you know or suspect is leading to your allergic rhinitis. This will help improve your symptoms.

  • Antihistamines

It can help reduce itching, sneezing, and a runny nose, which works by stopping your body from making histamine. Some antihistamines can make you sleepy. Some popular over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines include:

  • Decongestants

Patients can use decongestants over a short period, usually no longer than three days, to relieve a stuffy nose and sinus pressure. If you use them for a longer time, it can cause a rebound effect. Common OTC decongestants include:

These can help relieve itchiness and other allergy-related symptoms for a short time. However, it is advisable to avoid long-term use based on the feature of the products.

  • Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be needed if your symptoms are severe or other treatments do not work. It is used by injecting tiny amounts of the allergen into your skin. The doctor will slowly increase the amount of allergen. This may help your body be less sensitive to the allergen and stop reacting to it. Patients may need immunotherapy for weeks or longer.

Talk to your doctor before trying any treatment measure for allergic rhinitis.


Keywords: allergic rhinitis; hay fever.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.