ALLERGIC RHINITIS : SYMPTOMS, CAUSES, DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT
Allergic rhinitis is a group of symptoms which affects the nose. It is commonly known as hay fever.
Allergic rhinitis develops when the immune system of the body becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that normally causes no problems in most people. Allergic rhinitis is caused by an allergen, such as dust, pollen, mould, or flakes of skin from certain animals.
What is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal membrane that is characterized by nasal itching, sneezing, nasal congestion and runny nose in any combination.
Allergic rhinitis are of two types:
Seasonal allergic rhinitis: This type of allergic rhinitis occur in spring, summer and early fall. They are generally caused by allergic sensitivity to pollens from grass, trees and weeds or airborne mold spores.
Perennial allergic rhinitis: People with this type of allergic rhinitis experience symptoms year-round. It is usually caused by pet hair or dander, dust mites, cockroaches or mold.
Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis:
• Runny nose
• Itchy eyes or nose
• Stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion
• Sore or scratchy throat
• Watery eyes
• Dark circles under the eyes
• Frequent headaches
• Excessive fatigue
Causes of Allergic Rhinitis:
The body releases histamine when it comes in contact with an allergen. Histamine is a natural chemical that defends your body from the allergen. This chemical can cause allergic rhinitis and its symptoms, including sneezing, itchy nose, a runny nose, and itchy eyes.
Common allergens include:
• Dust mites
• Animal dander
• Cat saliva and Mold
Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis:
• Skin Prick or Scratch test: This is the most common test. In this test, a tiny drop of a possible allergen is scratched or pricked into the skin. The results are known within 10 to 20 minutes. Generally, a small red bump appears if someone is allergic to a substance.
• Intradermal test: In this test a small amount of a possible allergen is injected under the skin using a thin needle. After about 20 minutes the site is checked for a reaction. This test is more sensitive than the scratch or skin prick test.
Treatments for Allergic Rhinitis:
Allergic rhinitis can be treated in many ways. Treatment include medications, as well as home remedies and other alternative medicines.
Antihistamines are used to treat allergies. They work by stopping the body from making histamine.
Common over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines are:
Decongestants over a short period, generally no longer than three days, to relieve sinus pressure and a stuffy nose. Using them for a longer time can worsen the symptoms.
Common over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants are:
Nasal Sprays and Eye Drops
Nasal sprays and eye drops can help relieve itchiness and other allergy-related symptoms for a short time. However like decongestants, overusing certain nasal sprays and nose drops can cause a rebound effect. Corticosteroids are useful for treating inflammation and immune responses. Steroid nasal sprays are commonly recommended to manage allergy symptoms for long-term use.
For severe allergies, the doctor may recommend immunotherapy, or allergy shots. This therapy decrease the immune response to particular allergens over time.
The first approach in managing perennial or seasonal forms of allergic rhinitis should be to avoid the allergens that trigger symptoms.
Following are some measures to manage allergic rhinitis:
• Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are at their peak, generally during the mid morning and early evening.
• Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into the eyes.
• Do not hang clothing outdoors to dry as pollen may cling to towels and sheets.
• Do not rub the eyes because rubbing the eyes will make the symptoms worse.
• Windows should be kept closed and use air conditioning in the car and home.
• After petting any animals immediately wash the hands immediately.
• Try to minimize exposure to dust mites, especially in the bedroom.
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