What you need to know about allergic rhinitis:
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever is a condition similar in nature to cold, with symptoms being very much similar in both cases. But the only difference being that a common cold is caused by a viral infection whereas an allergic rhinitis is caused by what you call an allergen. An allergen is actually a harmless substance that leads to the development of an allergic reaction, in certain people who are susceptible to it. In allergic rhinitis, the development of symptoms is in response to specific allergens the most common one being pollen. Other allergens include dust mites, flecks of skin and saliva of animals, as well as the fur and feather of animals.
How common is allergic rhinitis?
It is a very common condition that most adults experience. It has been estimated that nearly 30 percent of the adult population may be affected with the condition. And research has shown that nearly 8 percent of adults in the United States do experience an allergic rhinitis of some kind. Around the world, most adults experience these symptoms with seasonal change.
What causes allergic rhinitis?
Symptoms and signs of allergic rhinitis are usually triggered by seasonal change. Therefore the most common causes include:
- Pollen of various kinds, which include tree pollen as well as grass pollen
- House dust mites
- Fur and feather from pets
- Spores from fungi and mushroom
- Animal dander or old skin
Symptoms and signs:
The most common symptoms and signs of allergic rhinitis include:
- Runny nose with a watery discharge
- Itchy nose
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat
- Eczema like symptoms such as itchy skin breaking up in blisters
One of the most features that distinguish allergic rhinitis from a common cold is the fact that you will not experience fever during an episode of allergic rhinitis, whereas in a common cold fever is a common feature.
How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?
A detailed history is usually very suggestive of allergic rhinitis, where the patent will give a clear description of symptoms that are brought about by seasonal change. In an ongoing episode a physical examination may also give clues to your doctor as to what the condition is. But in order to confirm the diagnosis, your doctor is most likely to order a few tests, which include:
- Allergic panel test/allergic skin prick test – where small amounts of the possible materials which you can be allergic to are pricked into the skin of your arm or upper back. After this you wait and watch for the development of a hive/small red bump at the site of the injection, which shows that you are indeed allergic to that material. There are specialists who have been trained to carry out these panel tests.
- The allergy blood test – where a sample of your blood is sent to the lab to measure the levels antibodies, which are the substances responsible for the developments of the allergic reaction, in your blood.
Treatment of allergic rhinitis:
Treatment of allergic rhinitis includes medication as well as home remedies. If your symptoms appear more frequently and cause disability of any kind, then medication might be the way to go. The different types of medication used are:
- Antihistamines – which are the most commonly used medication in the treatment of allergies. They prevent the production of a substance called histamine released by your immune system, which is responsible for the itchiness, sneezing and runny nose. Therefore by blocking the production it helps alleviate these symptoms. They come in the form of pills, and some of the more popular over the counter antihistamines are fexofenadine, loratadine and cetirizine.
- Eye drops and nasal corticosteroids – which are nasal sprays and eye drops that help to reduce the inflammation of the nasal lining and help reduce the sneezing, itchiness and the runny nose, as well as the symptoms of watery eyes and itchiness. For most people these nasal sprays are what helps reduce symptoms most effectively. These sprays are also safe in long term use and are not known to cause any complications. Examples include: fluticasone propionate, triamcinolone, mometasone and budesonide.
- Decongestants – this medication is effective over short term use if you are experiencing symptoms like a congested nose or sinus pressure. They are usually used for about two to three days, because when used for longer periods, you might develop the rebound effect of these medicines, meaning that your symptoms might return with more severity once you stop them. Common decongestants include: oxymetazoline, pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine
- Home remedies for allergic rhinitis include, prevention of exposure to the allergens themselves, such as avoiding opening your windows during seasonal change and using an air conditioner instead. You can try and use a filter designed for pollen. For indoor allergens the use of a dehumidifier might help.
Long term care:
If you have the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, unfortunately there is no means of preventing their development. Because it means that you have a higher than normal level of sensitivity to certain substances, which are otherwise harmless. Therefore the right treatment is the key factor in maintaining quality of life with symptom control. At times you might develop complications of allergic rhinitis which include:
- Ear infections
- Inability to attend to daily activities, such as absence from school and work
- If you are a known asthmatic, then it might worsen your asthma symptoms
Symptoms might keep you up at night