Posted by Kingsway Hospitals-The Best Multispecialty hospital on February 6th, 2021
WHAT IS ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Allergic rhinitis is an exaggerated immune response to specific environmental triggers/ allergens. It is also called hay fever and is a common condition showing symptoms similar to that of cold.
Allergic rhinitis can be seen in approximately 20% of all age groups. In children, it typically appears before the age of 10. It is more severe in children and in people between the age of 30 to 40 years.
CAUSES OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS
When the body comes in contact with an allergen, it produces an immune response in the form of an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) and it releases a natural chemical called histamine for defence. This chemical causes allergic rhinitis and its symptoms. Common allergens include:
- tree pollen
- dust, dust mites
- grass pollen, weed pollen
- animal dander, which is old skin
- cat saliva
- cockroach dust
RISK FACTORS OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS
Risk factors of allergic rhinitis include:
Family history: If there is a history of allergies in the family, the risk of developing allergic rhinitis is higher.
Other conditions: People with asthma or eczema are at a higher risk of developing allergic rhinitis.
Gender and age: Before adolescence, hay fever is more common among boys; however, females are more affected after adolescence.
Other external factors: They include cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke), chemicals, cold temperatures, humidity, wind, air pollution, hairspray, perfumes, colognes, wood smoke, fumes, etc.
TYPES OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS
There are two types of allergic rhinitis.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis: It is more common during spring, late summer, and early fall. Allergens most commonly responsible for seasonal allergic rhinitis include pollen from trees, grasses and weeds, airborne mold spores.
Perennial allergic rhinitis: It can occur year-round. Allergens most commonly responsible for perennial allergic rhinitis include dust mites, cockroaches, pet hair or dander, animal dung, fungi, and molds. It is observed that perennial allergic rhinitis is more difficult to treat than a seasonal one.
SYMPTOMS OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS
Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- watery nasal discharge/ runny nose
- blocked nasal passages/ stuffy nose
- sneezing, nasal itching, postnasal drip
- coughing; sore or scratchy throat, hoarse voice
- ear fullness and popping
- loss of taste, trouble smelling
- facial pressure/ pressure in the nose or cheeks
- watery eyes, itchy red or swollen eyes, gritty eyes, dark circles under the eyes (allergic shiners)
- frequent headaches
- eczema- type symptoms such as extremely dry, itchy skin which can blister
- excessive fatigue, mouth breathing, disturbed sleep/ frequent waking
Allergic rhinitis can last for several weeks and it does not cause fever.
It is important to consult the doctor for allergies if the symptoms are persistent for weeks and do not improve.
DIAGNOSIS OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS
The doctor will ask for a detailed history related to the symptoms, other medical history and may also perform a physical examination. One can help the doctor in the diagnosis by keeping a track of symptoms over a period of time. It is possible in the following ways:
- by recalling the location and work one was doing before the symptoms started
- noticing the time of the year when the symptoms appeared
- keenly observing home, work, and school environment for potential allergens/ triggers
The doctor may also ask to do the skin prick test (SPT) or a blood test like the radioallergosorbent test (RAST).
TREATMENT OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS
Treatment options for allergic rhinitis may include medications, home remedies, and alternative medicine. The doctor will prescribe the treatment depending on the symptoms, age, and overall health.
Antihistamines are commonly available over the counter (OTC), while some of them require a prescription. They stop the release of histamine and reduce sneezing, runny nose, and itching. They are available in the form of pills and as nasal sprays.
Decongestants help to temporarily relieve stuffy nose and sinus pressure. They are available in the form of pills, nose sprays, and nose drops. However, decongestants should be used only for a short time not longer than 3 days because one can become dependent on them, and also it can cause a rebound effect. People having abnormal heart rhythm, heart disease, history of stroke, anxiety, sleep disorder, high blood pressure, any bladder issues should ask their doctor before using them.
iii) Eye drops and nasal sprays:
Eye drops help to reduce swelling and itching in the eyes. They are usually prescribed alongside other medications.
Nasal steroid sprays are available OTC and also by prescription. They reduce the inflammation of nasal tissues and do not cause a rebound effect. Therefore, they are commonly advised as a long-term and useful way of managing allergy symptoms.
Immunotherapy or allergy shots are given in severe allergies that fail to get treated by other treatments. The immune system is desensitized to the allergens triggering the symptoms. It is done by injections.
v) Sublingual immunotherapy:
A dissolvable tablet containing a mixture of several allergens is kept under the tongue. It works similar to the injection. The first dose is given in the doctor’s office and afterwards can be taken at home. Possible side effects may include itching in the mouth or ear and throat irritation. Rarely, it may cause anaphylaxis.
Home remedies differ according to the allergen.
- In seasonal allergies use of an air conditioner instead of opening the windows can help.
- Use of a dehumidifier or high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and limiting carpet in the home can help in indoor allergies.
- In case of allergy to dust mites, sheets and blankets should be washed in hot water.
- Avoid flowers inside the home.
- Use of vacuum cleaner with a good filter.
- Staying away from cigarette smoke.
There is less evidence to prove the safety or effectiveness of these methods. They may include:
- Nasal saline irrigation
- Butterbur supplements
- Honey (raw, organic varieties)
One should consult the doctor before using any of these methods.
It is always better to consult the doctor as soon as one observes the symptoms persisting.
Kingsway Hospitals professional team of doctors and other medical staff is expert in providing treatments for all types of allergies and infections.
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