Allergic Rhinitis

General Illness Information


Common Name:

Hay Fever

Medical Term: Allergic Rhinitis

Description: Allergic response to airborne inhaled allergens affecting the upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses, throat, bronchial tubes and frequently the eyes).

Most common of all allergic diseases. Affects up to 15% of the population in the United States and Canada.

Onset of symptoms usually before age 30.

Hay fever name is misleading, since symptoms most frequent in the pollen season, and there is never fever.

Causes:

These are many allergens which cause allergic rhinitis. Common allergens are:

  • Pollen from weeds, grasses, flowers, tress;
  • Mold;
  • Dust;
  • Mites;
  • Air pollutants such as tobacco smoke.

These microscopic allergens, on entering the nose, provoke the body to produce local antibodies, which release a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes swelling an irritation in the upper respiratory passages, causing the typical hay fever symptoms.

Prevention:

Prepare your bedroom as follows:

  • Empty the room of furniture, rugs or carpet, and drapes or curtains;
  • Clean the walls, woodwork and floors with a damp mop. Wax the floor;
  • Cover the box springs, mattress and pillows with plastic covers;
  • Use only rugs that can be washed once a week;
  • Use bedclothes that can be washed often, such as cotton sheets, washable mattress pads and synthetic fiber blankets. Don’t use chenille or wool bedspreads, quilts or comforters;
  • Use wood or plastic chairs. Don’t use stuffed chairs;
  • Use plastic curtains, if possible. Dust them daily;
  • Use a vacuum cleaner, damp rags, and a damp or oiled mop to clean the bedroom thoroughly once a week.

Other preventive measures:

  • Keep windows and doors closed as much as possible;
  • Don’t handle objects that are very dusty, such as books or stored clothing;
  • Don’t keep stuffed animals or toys in the house;
  • Remove all pets (except fish) from the house;
  • Wear a filter face mask during exposure to allergens, including during housecleaning;
  • Install an air-purification unit in your home’s heating and air-conditioning system, preferably a high efficiency particulate (HEPA) filter;
  • Drive in an air-conditioned car;
  • Have someone else mow the lawn.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Itching, watery eyes;
  • Frequent sneezing; stuffy nose with a clear discharge;
  • Itching in the roof of the mouth;
  • Wheezing (sometimes);
  • Burning in the throat;
  • Cough.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking;
  • Spring and autumn. Since most plants produce pollen during these seasons;
  • Family history of allergies;
  • Immunosuppression (due to drugs or illness).

Diagnosis & Treatment

  • Laboratory tests such as a blood count and allergy skin tests may be recommended, but are usually not required for diagnosis. Eliminate as many allergens in your environment as possible.

General Measures:

See Prevention

Medications:

To reduce the body’s allergic response, you may be prescribed:

  • Antihistamines; decongestants; cortisone eye drops or nasal spray; cortisone tablets (severe cases only); cromolyn nasal spray; cromolyn nose drops. These medications relieve symptoms, but they don’t cure hay fever;
  • Desensitization injections for known allergens for severe or year round cases. Once allergens are known (through skin or blood tests), small amount are injected periodically. This helps block the immune system from releasing the histamine. This process may take months or years for effective results.

Activity:

No restrictions.

Diet:

Avoid foods that cause allergic reactions.

Possible Complications:

  • Susceptibility to other respiratory infections;
  • Ear infections;
  • Sleeping difficulty and chronic fatigue.

Prognosis

  • Symptoms can be controlled with treatment, but condition usually persists over a lifetime. It is usually more troublesome than disabling;
  • Excellent prognosis with treatment.

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