Allergic Rhinitis

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is inflammation inside the nose due to allergies. In allergic rhinitis, also simply called allergies or hay fever, the immune system overreacts to normally harmless particles in the air. These particles are called allergens and they often include pollen, dust, animal hair and mold. Typical symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes. Allergic rhinitis is often treated with nasal sprays and antihistamine medications. Allergic people may have predictable symptoms over their whole life, or may find that their symptoms change over time.

Risks

Allergies are an overreaction of the immune system to normally harmless particles. In allergic rhinitis, these particles are breathed in and settle in the nose. These particles are sometimes called triggers or allergens. Allergic rhinitis can affect everyone, but is more common in people who have family members who also have allergies. There are many possible allergens, and they tend to be different from person to person. Common triggers include dust, dust mites, animal hair, pollen, mold, chemicals, cigarette or wood smoke, wind, air pollution, humidity and perfumes.

Symptoms

The typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis is a stuffy, runny or itchy nose with itchy, teary eyes. Some people may develop a cough, sore throat, headaches, or hives. Some people find that their symptoms disturb their sleep, which causes them to have poor concentration, and to feel tired or sleepy during the day time.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms. If the substance causing the symptoms is unknown, a skin or blood allergy test may help to identify the cause.

Treatment

Treatment is usually directed by the severity of the allergic symptoms. Common options include eye drops, medicated nasal sprays and antihistamine medications. Nasal sprays or medications containing a decongestant are often helpful in reducing symptoms. In severe cases, or if it is impossible to avoid the trigger, a doctor may recommend immunotherapy. This is a slow exposure to the allergen, helping the body get used to it and reducing future immune responses to the allergen.

Prevention

Avoiding known triggers may help to prevent the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Some people take anti-histamine medications to avoid symptoms at times when they know they can not avoid their trigger (i.e. in spring when pollen is in the air).

Other names for allergic rhinitis

  • hay fever
  • hayfever