Allergens are harmless substances that cause an allergic reaction, as in the case of allergic rhinitis or hay fever which is an allergic reaction to a specific allergen. Pollen is the most common allergen in seasonal allergic rhinitis. Almost 8 percent of adults in the United States also suffer from allergic rhinitis of some kind, and according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) between 10 and 30 percent of the world’s population may have allergic rhinitis.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis
Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- Runny nose.
- Stuffy nose.
- Itchy nose.
- Painful sore throat.
- Itchy eyes.
- Watery eyes
- Dark circles under the eyes.
- Frequent headaches
- Eczema-type symptoms such as severe dryness and itchy skin that can blister and cry.
- Excessive fatigue.
You will usually feel one or more of these symptoms immediately after coming into contact with the allergen, and some symptoms such as headache and frequent fatigue may only occur after exposure to the allergen for a long time. A fever is not a symptom of hay fever, and some people rarely experience symptoms such as a fever. This is most likely to occur when you are exposed to allergens in large amounts. Others experience symptoms throughout the year, so talk to your doctor about possible allergies if symptoms persist for more than a few weeks and don’t seem to improve.
What causes allergic rhinitis?
When your body comes into contact with an allergen, it releases histamine, which is a natural chemical that defends your body from allergens. This chemical can also cause allergic rhinitis and its symptoms, including a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes.
In addition to tree pollen, other common allergens include:
- Herbal pollen.
- Dust mites.
- Animal dander, which is old skin.
- Cats saliva.
What are the types of allergic rhinitis
The two types of allergic rhinitis are seasonal and permanent:
- Seasonal allergies: It usually occurs during the spring and fall seasons and is usually a response to external allergens such as pollen.
- Perennial allergies: It can occur throughout the year or at any time during the year in response to indoor materials such as dust mites and pet dander.
Risk factors for allergic rhinitis
Allergies can affect anyone, but you are more likely to develop allergic rhinitis if there is a history of allergies in your family. Having asthma or atopic eczema can also increase your risk of developing allergic rhinitis.
Some external factors can exacerbate this condition, including:
- cigarette smoke.
- Cold temperatures.
- air pollution.
- Smoke firewood.
How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?
If you have a minor allergy, you may only need a physical examination. However, your doctor may perform certain tests to find out the best treatment and prevention plan for you.
The skin prick test is one of the most common tests where your doctor places various substances on your skin to see how your body reacts to each substance, usually a small red bump if you are allergic to a substance.
Also common is the blood test or the Radioactive Material Absorbent Material (RAST) test. The RAST measures the amount of immunoglobulin antibodies to allergens in your blood.
Treatments for allergic rhinitis
You can treat allergic rhinitis in a number of ways, and these include medications as well as home remedies and possibly alternative medications. So talk to your doctor before trying any new treatment procedure for allergic rhinitis.
You can take antihistamines to treat allergies. They work by preventing your body from making histamines.
Some over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines include:
- Fexofenadine (Allegra).
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
- Desloratadine (Clarinex).
- Loratadine (Claritin).
- Levocetirizine (Xyzal).
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec).
Important note: Talk to your doctor before starting a new medication and make sure that the new allergy medication will not interfere with your existing medications or other medical conditions.
You can use decongestants for a short period, usually no more than three days, to relieve a stuffy nose and sinus pressure. Using them for a longer period of time can cause a rebound effect, which means that once the symptoms stop, they will get worse.
Common over-the-counter decongestants include:
- Oxymetazoline (Afrin nasal spray).
- Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
- Phenylephrine (sodafide PE).
- Cetirizine with pseudoephedrine (Zyrtec-D).
If you have an abnormal heart rhythm, heart disease, a history of stroke, anxiety, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, or bladder problems, talk to your doctor before using a decongestant.
Eye drops and nasal sprays
Eye drops and nasal sprays can help relieve itching and other allergy-related symptoms for a short time however and depending on the product you may need to avoid their long-term use. Like decongestants, overuse of eye drops and nasal drops can cause a rebound effect.
Corticosteroids can help with inflammation and these immune responses, and steroid nasal sprays are commonly recommended as a useful long-term way to manage allergy symptoms and are available over the counter or by prescription. But talk to your doctor before starting an allergy regimen to make sure you are taking the best medications for your symptoms.Your doctor can also help you determine which products are designed for short-term use and that are designed for long-term management.
Your doctor may recommend immunotherapy or allergy shots if you have a severe allergy.You can use this treatment plan with medications to control symptoms and these shots reduce your immune response to specific allergens over time.
It requires a long-term commitment to the treatment plan as the allergy injection regimen begins with a build-up phase and during this phase you will go to your allergist for a dose one to three times a week for a period of three to six months to allow your body to get used to the allergen in the treatment and during the phase Maintenance You will likely need to see your allergist for the injection every two to four weeks over a period of three to five years.
You may not notice a change until more than a year after the start of the maintenance phase and once you reach this point it is possible that allergy symptoms will fade or disappear completely and some people may experience severe allergic reactions to an allergen during the injection as many allergists ask you Waiting in the office for 30 to 45 minutes after the first injection to make sure there is no intense or life-threatening response.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)
SLIT involves placing a tablet containing a mixture of several allergens under your tongue as it works similarly to an allergy injection but without injection and is currently effective in treating rhinitis, asthma allergies caused by grass, pollen, cat dander, dust mites and weeds.
You can take SLIT treatments like Oralair for some grass allergies at home after an initial consultation with your doctor. Your first dose of any SLIT will happen in your doctor’s office as an allergy injection where the drug is taken repeatedly over a period of time prescribed by your doctor.
Possible side effects include itching in the mouth or ear, irritation of the throat, and in rare cases, fissure treatments can cause anaphylaxis, so talk to your doctor about SLIT to see if allergies will respond to this treatment.
Home remedies depend on your allergen. If you suffer from seasonal allergies or pollen, you can try using an air conditioner instead of opening windows if possible. You can also add a filter designed for allergies. Using a dehumidifier or a highly efficient particulate air filter can help ( HEPA) helps control your allergies while you are indoors.
If you have a dust mite allergy, wash your sheets and blankets in hot water above 130 ° F (54.4 ° C). Adding a HEPA filter to the vacuum may also help reduce the transmission of allergens.
Complementary and alternative medicine
Due to concerns about potential side effects, more and more people with allergies are looking for ways to treat the symptoms of hay fever “naturally”. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that any medication can have side effects even if it is considered natural.
Apart from home remedies, options can also include free and alternative medicine as the downside to these remedies can be that there is little supportive evidence to prove that they are safe or effective. It can be difficult to determine the correct dosages and according to the trusted source of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) some of the treatments below may be helpful in managing seasonal allergies but more research is still needed so talk to your doctor before trying any of the following.
- Nasal saline irrigation.
- Butter supplements.
- Honey (choose raw, organic varieties).
Although these alternative remedies are derived from plants and other natural substances, they can interact with medications as well as cause reactions, so try these with caution and ask your doctor before use.
Complications of allergic rhinitis
Unfortunately, allergic rhinitis itself cannot be prevented, and treatment and management are keys to achieving a good quality of life with allergies.Some of the complications that can arise from hay fever include:
- Inability to sleep due to symptoms that keep you awake at night.
- Development or worsening of asthma symptoms.
- Frequent ear infections.
- Recurrent sinusitis or sinus infections.
- Absence from school or work due to low productivity.
- Frequent headaches
Complications can also arise from side effects of antihistamines as drowsiness can be caused by these antihistamines. Other side effects include headache, anxiety, insomnia and in rare cases antihistamines can cause effects on the digestive, urinary and circulatory systems.
Allergic rhinitis in children
Children can also develop allergic rhinitis, and it usually appears before the age of 10. If you notice that your child has cold-like symptoms at the same time every year, he is likely to have seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Symptoms in children are similar to those of adults, and children usually get watery eyes and blood, which is called allergic conjunctivitis. If you notice wheezing or shortness of breath in addition to other symptoms, your child may also suffer from asthma.
If you think your child has an allergy, consult your doctor because it is important to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. If your child has major seasonal allergies, limit your child’s exposure to allergens by keeping them indoors when the pollen count is high.
Washing clothes and blankets frequently during allergy season and using a regular vacuum cleaner can also be helpful. Many different treatments are available to help your child’s allergy, however some medications can cause side effects even in small doses, so always talk to your doctor before treating your child with any over-the-counter allergy medications.
The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to manage your allergies before your body has a chance to respond adversely to substances, so consider the following preventive measures for the specific allergens you are sensitive to:
The AAAAI recommends starting medications before seasonal allergy attacks. For example, if you are allergic to tree pollen in the spring, you may want to start taking antihistamines before an allergic reaction has had a chance. So stay indoors during peak hours and take a shower right after you are outside. You will also need to keep your windows closed during allergy season and avoid drying your laundry.
To reduce exposure to dust mites, you can take measures to ensure that your home is not a friendly environment for the development of dust mites, so use a wet hard floor mop instead of vacuuming.
And if you have carpet, use a HEPA filter. You will also need to clean hard surfaces more often, wash the bedding weekly in hot water, and use allergy pillows and cases to reduce exposure to dust mites while you sleep.
Ideally you will want to limit exposure to any animals you are allergic to. If this is not possible, be sure to clean all surfaces often, wash your hands immediately after touching the pets, and make sure your furry friends stay out of your bed. You will also need to wash your clothes after visiting homes that contain them. On pets.