You have an allergy when your body overreacts to things that don’t cause problems for most people. These things are called allergens. Just about everyone knows what hay fever is. The seasonal itching, sneezing and runny nose caused by the type of pollen that happens to be in the air. But what most people don’t know is that hay fever is just one sign of a more basic condition called allergic rhinitis.
What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is inflammation of the inside of the nose, (upper respiratory tract) caused by an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mold, or flakes of skin from certain animals. It’s a very common condition.
These reactions occur either seasonally or throughout the year. People with allergies usually have symptoms for many years. You also may get other problems such as sinusitis and ear infections as a result of your allergies.
What causes allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is due to the immune system reacting to an allergen as if it were harmful. Allergens such as pollen’s from trees, grasses and weeds cause allergic rhinitis. Additionally, dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches and mould also causes it. There are also nonallergic causes for rhinitis including irritants such as cigarette or other smoke, perfumes, cleaning products and other strong odors.
What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis typically causes cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing and a blocked or stuffy nose. You have a runny nose and post-nasal drip. Your eyes are watery and ears, nose and throat is very itchy. Others are:
- Ear infections that keep coming back
- Breathing through the mouth
- Fatigue due to poor quality sleep as a result of nasal obstruction
- Puffy, swollen eyelids
Typically, the diagnosis is made by your child’s healthcare provider based on a thorough medical history and physical exam. During the exam, your child’s healthcare provider may also find dark circles under the eyes, creases under the eyes, and swollen tissue inside the nose. If this is the case, then your child’s healthcare provider may refer your child to see an allergist. An allergist is a healthcare provider who is trained to do allergy skin testing. This will tell you exactly what things are causing your child to have symptoms.
There is no cure for allergic rhinitis. One of the best things you can do is to avoid the things that cause your allergies. It’s difficult to completely avoid potential allergens, but you can take steps to reduce exposure to a particular allergen you know or suspect is triggering your symptoms. Treatment choices for rhinitis may include:
- Nose sprays
- Medicines for asthma symptoms
- Allergy shots
Lifestyle and home remedies
- Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are at their peak, usually during the mid-morning and early evening (this may vary according to plant pollen), and when wind is blowing pollens around.
- Avoid using window fans that can draw pollen’s and molds into the house.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.
- Wear a pollen mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves or gardening, and take appropriate medication beforehand.
- Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry; pollen may cling to towels and sheets.To limit exposure to mold, keep the humidity in your home low (between 30 and 50 percent) and clean your bathrooms, kitchen and basement regularly.
- Use a dehumidifier, especially in the basement and in other damp, humid places, and empty and clean it often. If mold is visible, clean it with mild detergent and a 5 percent bleach solution as directed by an allergist.
- Clean floors with a damp rag or mop, rather than dry-dusting or sweeping.Try not to rub your eyes; doing so will irritate them and could make your symptoms worse.
- Wash your hands immediately after petting any animals; wash your clothes after visiting friends with pets.
- If you are allergic to a household pet, keep the animal out of your home as much as possible.
- Close the air ducts to your bedroom if you have forced-air or central heating or cooling. Replace carpeting with hardwood, tile or linoleum, all of which are easier to keep dander-free.
- Keep windows closed, and use air conditioning in your car and home. Make sure to keep your air conditioning unit clean.
- Reduce exposure to dust mites, especially in the bedroom. Wash your bedding frequently, using hot water.