Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic Rhinitis
What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis (pronounced al-er-jik ri-ni-tis) is a collection of symptoms that occur if you are exposed to
substances you are sensitive to. This reaction by your body is known as an 'allergy'. Allergies can be
seasonal, occurring especially in the spring and fall if you are allergic to pollen from trees and grass, for
instance. Allergies can also be year-around if, for example, you are allergic to pets or house dust mites.
House dust mites occur everywhere in a house and are too small to be seen.
Seasonal allergies are also known as 'hay fever'.
Having allergies tends to run in families. People with asthma or eczema (a type of skin irritation) are more
likely to develop allergies. So are people with weak immune systems.
Up to one-quarter of all Americans have allergies.
Allergies usually occur in people under 20 years old, but they can develop at any age.
What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?
The most common symptoms include:
Runny, stuffed and/or itchy nose
Itchy eyes
Scratchy throat
Other symptoms are headaches and/or pressure in the front of the face, and difficulty sleeping.
These symptoms last more than 10 days.
Long-term problems are nasal polyps (growths in the nose) and loss of smell.
What tests are needed?
Allergic rhinitis is usually diagnosed on the basis of symptoms alone. A smear from inside the nose may
be taken. Skin tests may be done to determine which substances you are allergic to. A lung function test
may be done to rule out asthma. X-rays or computed tomography (CT) or computed axial tomography
(CAT) scans of the sinuses may be done if a sinus infection is suspected.
What treatment is needed?
Avoiding the substance or item you are allergic to is the best treatment. If this is impossible, a variety of
medicines are available. Some medicines are preventative and some treat symptoms when they occur.
If medicine isn't effective, allergy injections can help. These are a series of injections of the substance
that causes the allergy. The injections are given in gradually increasing doses to stimulate the body to
block the allergic reaction.
You may be referred to an allergist, who is a doctor trained in treating allergies, or to an ear, nose, and
throat specialist.
Do keep the doors and windows closed and use air conditioning if you have seasonal allergies.
Special filters are available for homes and vehicles
Do stay indoors during seasonal allergy flare-ups
Do avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves if you are allergic to outdoor molds. If you do so, wear
a special mask
Do avoid trips to the country at harvest season
Do use a dehumidifier to reduce molds in the home
Do replace carpets and drapes, if possible, with flooring and roller blinds if you are allergic to
indoor house dust mites
Do enclose mattresses, pillows, and boxsprings in zipped plastic bags, add a HEPA filter to the
vacuum cleaner, and wash bedding at high temperatures at least once a week if you are allergic
to indoor house dust mites
Do, if possible, keep the pet outdoors if you have a pet allergy, and have another household
member wash and brush the animal weekly
Do take your medication as recommended. Preventative medications for hay fever must be taken
before the season begins
Do contact your doctor if your symptoms become constant and keep you awake, if nasal
discharge becomes thick and colored (especially if you also have a fever and headache), or you
are having problems with your medication
Don't overuse nasal decongestants. These can cause a 'rebound' effect that results in the same
symptoms as the allergy
Don't smoke, or expose yourself to cigarette smoke or irritating chemicals or substances
Recovery time
Allergies are often lifelong, although the symptoms may lessen with age.
If you have seasonal allergies, the symptoms disappear as soon as the offending substance, such as tree
pollens, does.
What can be done to stop it from happening again?
If you have year-around allergies you may need medicine all the time. If you are getting allergy injections
the treatments are also given on a continued basis. However, the time between them is lengthened until
only an occasional 'maintenance' injection is needed.
Further information on allergic rhinitis can be found from:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
611 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Tel: (1-800) 822-2762 or (414) 272-6071
Email: [email protected]
Website: Click here
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1233 20th Street, NW, Suite 402
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 466-7643
Fax: (202) 466-8940
Website: Click here
American Lung Association
1740 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
Tel: (800) LUNG-USA and (212) 315-8700
Website: Click here
Reproduced with permission from PDxMD - Clinical Information for Quality Care -