Allergic Rhinitis (Nasal/Sinus Allergies)
If you have allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies), your immune system mistakenly
identifies a typically harmless substance as an intruder. This substance is called an
allergen. The immune system responds to the allergen by releasing histamine and
chemical mediators that typically cause symptoms in the nose, throat, eyes, ears,
skin and roof of the mouth.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is most often caused by pollen carried in the
air during different times of the year in different parts of the country.
Allergic rhinitis can also be triggered by common indoor allergens such as the dried
skin flakes, urine and saliva found on pet dander, mold, droppings from dust mites
and cockroach particles. This is called perennial allergic rhinitis, as symptoms
typically occur year-round.
In addition to allergen triggers, symptoms may also occur from irritants such as
smoke and strong odors, or to changes in the temperature and humidity of the air. This happens because allergic rhinitis causes inflammation in the nasal lining, which
increases sensitivity to inhalants. Many people with allergic rhinitis are prone to
allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergy). Allergic rhinitis can make symptoms of asthma
worse for people who suffer from both conditions.
Skin testing is the most accurate method of testing for allergies. Occasionally if skin
testing cannot be performed, blood test may be ordered.
Once specific allergens are diagnosed, an allergist will work with you in developing
a plan to avoid allergens that trigger your symptoms. For example, if you are
allergic to dust mites or indoor mold, you will want to take steps to reduce these
allergens in your house to the extent possible. Complete avoidance is often not
possible, therefore, treatment is usually necessary. Numerous medications are
available to treat nasal and eye allergies. The selection of proper medication(s)
depends on patients symptoms, results of the allergy testing, and several other
factors. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) is a proven treatment approach providing
long-term relief for many people suffering from allergic rhinitis.