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Swasam Asthma, Allergy & Respiratory Centre

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mould or flakes of skin from certain animals.

It's a very common condition, estimated to affect around one in every five people in india.

Signs and Symptoms

Allergic rhinitis typically causes cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing, itchiness and a blocked or runny nose. These symptoms usually start soon after being exposed to an allergen.

Some people only get allergic rhinitis for a few months at a time because they are sensitive to seasonal allergens, such as tree or grass pollen. Other people get allergic rhinitis all year round.

Most people with allergic rhinitis have mild symptoms that can be easily and effectively treated. However, for some, symptoms can be severe and persistent, causing sleep problems and interfering with everyday life.

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis do occasionally improve with time, but this can take many years and it is unlikely that the condition will ever disappear completely.

What causes allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is caused by the immune system reacting to an allergen as if it were harmful.

This results in cells releasing a number of chemicals that cause the mucus membrane (the inside layer of your nose) to become swollen and excessive levels of mucus to be produced.

Common allergens that cause allergic rhinitis include pollen (this type of allergic rhinitis is known as hay fever), mould spores, house dust mites and flakes of skin or droplets of urine or saliva from certain animals.

Further problems

In some cases, allergic rhinitis can lead to complications. These include:

  • nasal polyps – abnormal but benign (non-cancerous) sacs of fluid that grow inside the nasal passages and sinuses
  • sinusitis – an infection caused by nasal inflammation and swelling that prevents mucus draining from the sinuses
  • middle ear infections – infection of part of the ear located directly behind the eardrum

These problems can often be treated with medication, although surgery is sometimes needed in severe or long-term cases.

Diagnosing allergic rhinitis 

Your GP will often be able to diagnose allergic rhinitis from your symptoms and your personal and family medical history.

You will be asked if you have noticed any triggers that seem to cause a reaction, and whether it happens at a particular place or time.

Allergic rhinitis is usually confirmed when medical treatment starts. If you respond well to antihistamines, it is almost certain that your symptoms are caused by an allergy.

Allergy testing

If the exact cause of allergic rhinitis is uncertain, your GP may refer you to a hospital allergy clinic for allergy testing. The two main allergy tests are:

  • Skin prick test – where the allergen is placed on your arm and the surface of the skin is pricked with a needle to introduce the allergen to your immune system. If you are allergic to the substance, a small welt (itchy spot) will appear.
  • Blood test – to check for the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody in your blood. Your immune system produces this antibody in response to a suspected allergen.

Treatment for allergic rhinitis largely depends on how severe the symptoms are and how much the condition is affecting your everyday activities.

In most cases, treatment aims to relieve symptoms such as sneezing and a blocked or runny nose.

Medication

Medication will not cure your allergy, but it can be used to treat the common symptoms. If your symptoms are caused by seasonal allergens, such as pollen, you should be able to stop taking your medication after the risk of exposure has passed.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy, also known as hyposensitisation or desensitisation, is another type of treatment used for some allergies. It is only suitable for people with certain types of allergies, such as hay fever, and is usually only considered if your symptoms are severe.

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Allergic Rhinitis Details

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