Allergic rhinitis is a common medical problem with bothersome symptoms that can significantly interfere with daily activities and affect performance at work or school. Here are some basic facts that can help in dealing better with allergic rhinitis and its impact on daily life.
1. WHAT IS ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Allergic rhinitis is an inflammatory condition of the nasal passages that develops in response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or tiny flecks of skin and saliva shed by cats, dogs, and other animals with fur or feathers (dander) causing cold-like signs and symptoms, such as runny nose, congestion, sneezing, and pressure on the sinuses. It may also affect the throat and the eyes.
2. IS ALLERGIC RHINITIS THE SAME AS THE COMMON COLD?
No. While allergic rhinitis may present with symptoms similar to the common cold, allergic rhinitis is not caused by a virus unlike the common cold.
3. WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal and may occur when certain plants come into bloom and release their pollen into the air.
Allergic rhinitis may also be triggered by dust mites, spores from fungi, mold, animal dander, or other indoor allergens and symptoms may occur all year round.
When there is allergy, the immune system produces antibodies to an allergen or substance. The next time the individual comes in contact with the substance, the antibodies signal the release of chemicals such as histamine which causes the signs and symptoms of allergy.
Some factors may trigger or worsen allergic rhinitis, such as chemicals, pollutants, cigarette smoke, perfume and cold temperatures.
4. WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Signs and symptoms may include an itchy, stuffy, runny nose, and sneezing. Allergic rhinitis may also affect the eyes and throat causing red, itchy or watery eyes, itchy or sore throat, post nasal drip and cough and sometimes it may also cause fatigue.
5. HOW IS ALLERGIC RHINITIS TREATED?
The best way to prevent allergic rhinitis is avoidance of triggers. However, once symptoms develop, treatment is directed towards the control of the allergic response with the use of anti-histamines, steroids, and supportive therapies such as nasal saline wash or irrigation.
6. CAN PATIENTS WITH ALLERGIC RHINITIS BENEFIT FROM SALINE NASAL WASH?
Cleaning the inside of the nose with saline wash is a highly recognized measure widely prescribed by doctors worldwide. Nasal saline wash has been shown to relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis and to improve the quality of life. As part of regular hygiene, nasal washing can also help in keeping the nasal passages clean and in preventing illness by flushing away irritants that cause allergy such as pollens, dirt, dust, and infectious agents like bacteria and viruses that may sometimes complicate allergy.
Nasal washing is commonly done either with a saline spray or large volume saline irrigation, each with its own set of benefits suited for the right condition.
When nasal washing is being considered, medical experts advise nasal washing devices prepared under stringent standards of manufacturing like nasal sprays and large-volume irrigating kits which are already available over the counter in neighborhood drugstores and pharmacies. This will help avoid the risk of using contaminated solutions prepared at home and eliminate the inconvenience of mixing one's own salt solution.
It is always best to consult a doctor for prompt and adequate management of the recurring symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
- Mayo Clinic. Hay fever. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20373039. Accessed 14 July 2021.
- Hermelingmeier KE et al. Nasal irrigation as an adjunctive treatment in allergic rhinitis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Rhinol Allergy. 2012;26(5):e119-e125.