Allergic Rhinitis/Hay Fever

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is an allergic reaction of the nasal passages to allergens in the air resulting in watery nasal discharges and itching of the nose and eyes. This condition is frequently seen in the spring and summer months because of many individuals’ reaction to pollen.

What are the causes and risk factors of allergic rhinitis?

Almost any organic matter that is small enough to float in the air and that can fit inside our nose can cause allergic rhinitis.

Plants are major causes of allergic rhinitis because of their seasonal release of pollen. In the spring and summer months, it is the flowering plants that cause allergic rhinitis. Those suffering from this condition are well-advised to stay indoors. However, mold spores found indoors may also cause an allergic reaction year-round.

Animals can also cause allergic rhinitis. The best example of this are cats, which secrete small, light proteins from their skin that can float and stay in the air indoors for extended periods of time.

What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis patients exhibit any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Repetitive sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itchy eyes, ears, nose or throat

How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?

A doctor can easily spot the clinical signs of allergic rhinitis. This includes swollen eyelids, red eyes and eye bags under the eyes. Inspection of the nose will also reveal the nasal lining to be pale or violaceous. Skin testing confirms the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis.

What are the treatment options?

The best treatment is avoidance of the allergens that cause the allergic reaction. Outdoor activities need to be curtailed during periods of known pollen release. In some cities, pollen alerts are available to the public. Indoors, homes need to be periodically cleaned and kept well-ventilated to remove mold spores.

If unavoidable, many medications are available that can reduce allergic symptoms. These include nasal sprays, antihistamines and nasal decongestants.

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