Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
What Is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis (commonly called hay fever) is typically identified by the swelling of the blood vessels in the sinuses. The condition is caused by a person’s immune system reacting to allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, dust mites and mold.
It is often broken up into two categories — seasonal allergic rhinitis or perennial allergic rhinitis. These two categories are based on when and how often symptoms occur, which is typically determined by the type of allergen that is causing the inflammation.
Symptoms commonly associated with allergic rhinitis can include post nasal drip, nasal congestion, and a runny nose. (More Info on Post Nasal Drip Treatments and Prevention.)
Related symptoms can also include itchy and watery eyes, a dry and itchy nose, and a sore throat and cough.
Allergic rhinitis is quite common, affecting one in every five Americans.
Why Is It Called Hay Fever?
Allergic rhinitis tends to go by many names, including “hay fever”, “seasonal allergies”, or just “allergies.”
The term hay fever likely comes from the belief that allergic rhinitis is brought on by the smell of hay in the summer and harvest months, and seems to have been around since the mid 1800s.[*]
The term “hay fever” persists today, likely due to the onset of “allergy season” in conjunction with harvest crops. However, trees, weeds, and grasses are often more responsible for allergy symptoms than actual hay.
What Causes Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is your body’s response to allergens and other irritants, such as pollen, dust mites, mold, and animal dander. Your body reacts by releasing histamine to combat these potential invaders, triggering symptoms such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, and post nasal drip.
What Are The Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis?
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) commonly include:
- an itchy, stuffy, runny nose
- sneezing and coughing
- post nasal drip
- a sore throat
- itchy, watery eyes
Other symptoms may include:
- facial pain around the eyes and sinuses
Common symptoms can appear within moments after exposure to an allergen. Some sufferers may experience severe allergic rhinitis symptoms while others may only experience mild to moderate symptoms.[*]
How To Treat Allergic Rhinitis?
There are several ways to treat allergic rhinitis, from herbal home remedies and exercise to a combination of over-the-counter and prescription medications to clear up symptoms.
When dealing with symptoms such as post nasal congestion, runny noses, and inflammation, sufferers often turn to antihistamines, decongestants, and corticosteroids to make life more bearable.
Popular delivery methods for over-the-counter and prescription medications include oral tablets and liquids, nasal sprays and rinses, and nose and eye drops to help directly target afflicted areas.
Nasal nebulizers can be used to effectively jet allergy medications, corticosteroids, antibiotics, or antifungal treatments directly to affected areas.
Nasal cleansing and irrigation with nasal-safe saline and moisturizing solutions can help provide symptom relief from nasal polyps, post-nasal drip, and congestion.
Treatments (in more detail) for allergic rhinitis may include:
Antihistamines For Allergic Rhinitis
Antihistamines are identified as a class of medications that can reduce or block histamines (the chemical in your body that causes allergic rhinitis symptoms). As a result, they help stop allergy symptoms before they become problematic.
Antihistamines can come in different forms, including tablets, capsules, liquids, nasal sprays, and eye drops. They also come in both prescription and over-the- counter forms.
Older antihistamines often caused side effects, such as drowsiness and fatigue. However, newer antihistamines have fewer side effects[*]
Decongestants For Allergic Rhinitis
Decongestants are identified as a class of medications that help shrink swollen blood vessels and tissues. As a result, they help relieve sinus congestion and blockages, commonly associated with allergic rhinitis.
Decongestants can come in in different forms, such as tablets, liquids, nose drops, and nasal sprays. They also come in both prescription and over-the- counter forms.
Decongestants can cause side effects, such as jitteriness and trouble sleeping.[*][*]
Steroids For Allergic Rhinitis
Corticosteroids are identified as a class of medications that help decrease inflammation in the body. As a result, they can be used to treat swelling and inflammation in the sinuses caused by allergic rhinitis.
Corticosteroids can come in in different forms, such as tablets, liquids, powders, nose drops, and nasal sprays. They also come in both prescription and over-the- counter forms.
They may be taken for a short-term or a long-term basis, depending on the severity of your condition.[*][*]
Corticosteroids can cause side effects, such as an irritation of your nose or throat. Side effects have the potential to become serious so it’s important to discuss them with your doctor.
Nasal Sprays For Allergic Rhinitis
There are several different types of nasal sprays available to treat allergic rhinitis, including:
- Decongestant Sprays
These types of nasal sprays can help shrink swollen blood vessels and tissues in your nose, reducing sinus congestion and blockages.
- Antihistamine Sprays
These types of nasal sprays can help prevent histamines in your body from reacting to allergens and irritants that normally contribute to allergic rhinitis symptoms.
- Steroid Nasal Sprays
These types of nasal sprays can help reduce allergic rhinitis symptoms by reducing and preventing your body’s inflammatory response to allergens and irritants.
- Cromolyn Sodium (NasalCrom)
These types of nasal sprays can help prevent your body from releasing histamines, helping to prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms.[*]
Home Remedy For Allergic Rhinitis
- Air Purifier For Allergic Rhinitis
Air purifiers can be used indoors to help remove allergens and other irritants that may contribute to allergic rhinitis. However, skepticism remains about their effectiveness at preventing allergies.
- Essential Oils For Allergic Rhinitis
Essential oils (oils typically derived from plants) are sometimes used to help treat some common symptoms of allergic rhinitis. However, further research is still needed to support these claims.[*]
- Herbs For Allergic Rhinitis
Herbal remedies are sometimes used to treat allergic rhinitis. However, more research is still needed to support these claims.
- Food For Allergic Rhinitis
It’s believed that certain foods you eat can help reduce some common allergic rhinitis symptoms. Turmeric, for example, is commonly thought to help reduce inflammation and reduce congestion and swelling in the sinuses. However, more research is still needed to support these claims.
- Tea For Allergic Rhinitis
Certain teas, such as nettle tea and ginger tea, are thought to help reduce or alleviate some common allergic rhinitis symptoms. However, more research is still needed to support these claims.
Immunotherapy For Allergic Rhinitis (Allergy Shots)
Allergy shots are usually delivered as a series of injections, given out over extended periods of time, to help the body's immune system adapt to specific allergens. These shots are not quick fixes and typically take moths to years to produce results. However, they have shown the ability to provide extended relief from allergy symptoms, and they may play a role in preventing future outbreaks.[*]
Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis
Seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) symptoms typically occur in the spring, summer, and early fall. These types of allergic reactions are usually the result of pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis impacts roughly 30 million Americans each year. Although, SAR is not typically serious, it has the potential to decrease the quality of life for sufferers who are impacted by its various symptoms.[*]
Perennial Allergic Rhinitis
Perennial or non seasonal allergic rhinitis is usually caused by indoor exposure to pet hair or dander, dust mites, cockroaches, as well as mold.
Perennial allergies can be described as chronic, occurring frequently or without subsiding, often for months or years.
If left untreated, perennial allergic rhinitis can lead to complications, such as chronic sinusitis or nasal polyps, in the nasal cavities or sinuses.[*][*][*]
Allergic and Non Allergic Rhinitis
Idiopathic non-allergic rhinitis (or non-allergic vasomotor rhinitis) is an autoimmune disorder that is caused by your body’s hypersensitive response to an irritant, such as smoke or dust or pollen, even when there is no allergy present.[*][*]
Allergic Rhinitis Polyps
Nasal polyps are small, painless, non cancerous growths that develop in the linings of your sinuses.
They are typically the result of chronic inflammation, which can be directly related to your body’s response to allergens.
Nasal polyps are also commonly associated with other conditions, such as asthma and repeated infections.[*][*]
How To Prevent Allergic Rhinitis?
The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to eliminate your exposure to allergic stimuli. However, this is usually not possible. Therefore, methods such as limiting your exposure to allergens and taking care of your overall health can be useful for reducing severity and frequency of flare ups.
To help prevent allergic rhinitis, try these steps:
- rinse and moisturize your nasal passages daily
- wash your hands frequently
- keep allergy symptoms under control
- use a humidifier in your home
- avoid cigarette smoke and polluted air
When To See A Doctor For Hay Fever?
You may have tried a number of remedy's and over-the-counter medications. See your doctor if there is no improvement after 48-72h, as this could indicate a more serious problem is taking place.
Your general practitioner can treat and diagnose allergies however, more severe cases may require meeting with an allergist. An allergist is a medical practitioner specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies.
Remember to record your symptoms, and the length of time you have been experiencing each, to assist your doctor in creating your care plan.