To find the most effective way to treat allergic rhinitis symptoms, see an allergist
Your allergist may start by taking a detailed history, looking for clues in your lifestyle that will help pinpoint the cause of your symptoms. You’ll be asked, among other things, about your work and home environments (including whether you have a pet), your eating habits, your family’s medical history and the frequency and severity of your symptoms.
Sometimes allergic rhinitis can be complicated by several medical conditions, such as a deviated septum (curvature of the bone and cartilage that separate the nostrils) or nasal polyps (abnormal growths inside the nose and sinuses). Any of these conditions will be made worse by catching a cold. Nasal symptoms caused by more than one problem can be difficult to treat, often requiring the cooperation of an allergist and another specialist, such as an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist).
Your allergist may recommend a skin test, in which small amounts of suspected allergens are introduced into your skin. Skin testing is the easiest, most sensitive and generally least expensive way of identifying allergens.
Types of skin tests
Management and Treatment
The first approach in managing seasonal or perennial forms of hay fever should be to avoid the allergens that trigger symptoms.
Exposure to pets
Many allergens that trigger allergic rhinitis are airborne, so you can’t always avoid them. If your symptoms can’t be well-controlled by simply avoiding triggers, your allergist may recommend medications that reduce nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and itching. They are available in many forms — oral tablets, liquid medication, nasal sprays and eyedrops. Some medications may have side effects, so discuss these treatments with your allergist.
Intranasal corticosteroids are the single most effective drug class for treating allergic rhinitis. They can significantly reduce nasal congestion as well as sneezing, itching and a runny nose.
Talk with your allergist about whether these medications are appropriate and safe for you. These sprays are designed to avoid the side effects that may occur from steroids that are taken by mouth or injection. Take care not to spray the medication against the center portion of the nose (the nasal septum). The most common side effects are local irritation and nasal bleeding. Some older preparations have been shown to have some effect on children’s growth; data about some newer steroids don’t indicate an effect on growth
Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis. These medications counter the effects of histamine, the irritating chemical released within your body when an allergic reaction takes place. Although other chemicals are involved, histamine is primarily responsible for causing the symptoms. Antihistamines are found in eyedrops, nasal sprays and, most commonly, oral tablets and syrup.
Antihistamines help to relieve nasal allergy symptoms such as:
There are dozens of antihistamines; some are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. Patients respond to them in a wide variety of ways.
Generally, the newer (second-generation) products work well and produce only minor side effects. Some people find that an antihistamine becomes less effective as the allergy season worsens or as their allergies change over time. If you find that an antihistamine is becoming less effective, tell your allergist, who may recommend a different type or strength of antihistamine. If you have excessive nasal dryness or thick nasal mucus, consult an allergist before taking antihistamines. Contact your allergist for advice if an antihistamine causes drowsiness or other side effects.
Proper use: Short-acting antihistamines can be taken every four to six hours, while timed-release antihistamines are taken every 12 to 24 hours. The short-acting antihistamines are often most helpful if taken 30 minutes before an anticipated exposure to an allergen (such as at a picnic during ragweed season). Timed-release antihistamines are better suited to long-term use for those who need daily medications. Proper use of these drugs is just as important as their selection. The most effective way to use them is before symptoms develop. A dose taken early can eliminate the need for many later doses to reduce established symptoms. Many times a patient will say that he
Decongestants help relieve the stuffiness and pressure caused by swollen nasal tissue. They do not contain antihistamines, so they do not cause antihistaminic side effects. They do not relieve other symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Decongestants are available as prescription and nonprescription medications and are often found in combination with antihistamines or other medications. It is not uncommon for patients using decongestants to experience insomnia if they take the medication in the afternoon or evening. If this occurs, a dose reduction may be needed. At times, men with prostate enlargement may encounter urinary problems while on decongestants. Patients using medications to manage emotional or behavioral problems should discuss this with their allergist before using decongestants. Pregnant patients should also check with their allergist before starting decongestants.
Nonprescription decongestant nasal sprays work within minutes and last for hours, but you should not use them for more than a few days at a time unless instructed by your allergist. Prolonged use can cause rhinitis medicamentosa, or rebound swelling of the nasal tissue. Stopping the use of the decongestant nasal spray will cure that swelling, provided that there is no underlying disorder.
Oral decongestants are found in many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications, and may be the treatment of choice for nasal congestion. They don’t cause rhinitis medicamentosa but need to be avoided by some patients with high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, check with your allergist before using them.
Nonprescription saline nasal sprays will help counteract symptoms such as dry nasal passages or thick nasal mucus. Unlike decongestant nasal sprays, a saline nasal spray can be used as often as it is needed. Sometimes an allergist may recommend washing (douching) the nasal passage. There are many OTC delivery systems for saline rinses, including neti pots and saline rinse bottles.
Nasal cromolyn blocks the body’s release of allergy-causing substances. It does not work in all patients. The full dose is four times daily, and improvement of symptoms may take several weeks. Nasal cromolyn can help prevent allergic nasal reactions if taken prior to an allergen exposure.
Nasal ipratropium bromide spray can help reduce nasal drainage from allergic rhinitis or some forms of nonallergic rhinitis.
Leukatriene pathway inhibitors (montelukast and zafirlukast) block the action of leukotriene, a substance in the body that can cause symptoms of allergic
rhinitis. These drugs are also used to treat asthma.
Immunotherapy may be recommended for people who don’t respond well to treatment with medications or who experience side effects from medications, who have allergen exposure that is unavoidable or who desire a more permanent solution to their allergies. Immunotherapy can be very effective in controlling allergic symptoms, but it doesn’t help the symptoms produced by nonallergic rhinitis.
Two types of immunotherapy are available: allergy shots and sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets.
Eye allergy preparations may be helpful when the eyes are affected by the same allergens that trigger rhinitis, causing redness, watery eyes and itching. OTC eyedrops and oral medications are commonly used for short-term relief of some eye allergy symptoms. They may not relieve all symptoms, though, and prolonged use of some of these drops may actually cause your condition to worsen.
Prescription eyedrops and oral medications also are used to treat eye allergies. Prescription eyedrops provide both short- and long-term targeted relief of eye allergy symptoms, and can be used to manage them.
Check with your allergist or pharmacist if you are unsure about a specific drug or formula.
Treatments that are not recommended for allergic rhinitis
If you develop symptoms that resemble those of hay fever and that appear or become more serious at work, you may be suffering from occupational rhinitis.
Occupational rhinitis, or work-related rhinitis, is a condition in which symptoms are triggered or further aggravated by allergens in the workplace. These symptoms can include sneezing, a runny nose and watering eyes. Common triggers include cleaning products, chemical fumes, certain types of dust, and corrosive gases.
If your allergy symptoms appear at work, or seem to get worse there, call your allergist, who can help you identify potential triggers and develop a treatment plan.Type your paragraph here.
Hay Fever Symptoms
Hay Fever Triggers
Hay Fever Management and Treatment
Avoid triggers by making changes to your home and to your behavior.
Control some symptoms with over-the-counter medication.
See an allergist for prescription medications, which may be more effective.
Allergic rhinitis — commonly known as hay fever — is a group of symptoms affecting the nose. But don’t be misled by the name — you don’t have to be exposed to hay to have symptoms. And despite the name, it’s not usually accompanied by fever.
People with allergic rhinitis generally experience symptoms after breathing in an allergy-causing substance such as pollen or dust. In the fall, a common allergen is ragweed. In the spring, the most common triggers are grasses and pollen.
When a sensitive person inhales an allergen, the body’s immune system may react with the following symptoms (listed in order of frequency):
Symptoms also may be triggered by common irritants such as:
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
Allergic rhinitis can be associated with:
Many parents of children with allergic rhinitis have said that their children are more moody and irritable during allergy season. Since children cannot always express their symptoms verbally, they may express their discomfort by acting up at school and at home. In addition, some children feel that having an allergy is a stigma that separates them from others.
It is important that the irritability or other symptoms caused by ear, nose or throat trouble are not mistaken for attention deficit disorder. With proper treatment, symptoms can be kept under control and disruptions in learning and behavior can be avoided.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis have other causes as well, the most customary being the common cold — an example of infectious rhinitis. Most infections are relatively short-lived, with symptoms improving in three to seven days.
Many people have recurrent or chronic nasal congestion, excess mucus production, itching and other nasal symptoms similar to those of allergic rhinitis. In those cases, an allergy is not the cause.
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If you sneeze a lot, if your nose is often runny or stuffy, or if your eyes, mouth or skin often feels itchy, you may have allergic rhinitis, a condition that affects 40 million to 60 million Americans.
Allergic rhinitis, like skin rashes and other allergies, develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people.
Allergic rhinitis is commonly known as hay fever. But you don’t have to be exposed to hay to have symptoms. And contrary to what the name suggests, you don’t have to have a fever to have hay fever.
Allergic rhinitis takes two different forms:
Some people may experience both types of rhinitis, with perennial symptoms getting worse during specific pollen seasons. There are also nonallergic causes for rhinitis.Type your paragraph here.
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