Allergens from trees and grass float through the air in spring, summer, and fall. These particles can enter a person’s nose, eyes, ears, and mouth, triggering an allergic rhinitis reaction. This article will let you know how to avoid and treat it.
What Is Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
Allergic rhinitis – commonly known as hay fever – is a group of symptoms affecting the nose. But don’t be misled by the name – you don’t have to be exposed to hay to have symptoms, and hay fever does not cause a fever.
Allergic rhinitis develops when the body’s immune system recognizes and overreacts to something in the environment that typically doesn’t cause problems in most people.
What Can Trigger Allergic Rhinitis?
The most common fall allergy is ragweed, which pollinates from mid-August to early October through most of the United States and parts of Europe. It causes hay fever with symptoms that include sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose, itchy nose and itchy, watery eyes.
Mold spores are also released in autumn and become more common in the air as decaying leaves and other vegetation fall to the ground. High mold counts also contribute to breathing problems among those with asthma.
With perennial allergic rhinitis, the symptoms can be experienced year-round. It is generally caused by dust mites, pet hair or dander, cockroaches, or mold.
What Is the Best Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis?
Many allergens that trigger allergic rhinitis are airborne, so you can’t always avoid them. Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen out of your eyes. Keep windows closed during high pollen periods and use air conditioning in your home and car.
If your symptoms can’t be well-controlled by simply avoiding triggers, your allergist may recommend medications that reduce nasal congestion, sneezing, and an itchy and runny nose. They are available in many forms – oral tablets, liquid medication, nasal sprays and eyedrops.
Intranasal corticosteroids are the single most effective medication class for treating allergic rhinitis. They can significantly reduce nasal congestion as well as sneezing, itching and a runny nose. Side effects can include headache, sore throat, nosebleeds, or a cough.
Examples of steroid nasal sprays available by prescription include: Beclomethasone (Beconase, Qnasl), Ciclesonide (Alvesco Inhaler, Zetonna), Fluticasone Furoate (Veramyst), Fluticasone Proprionate (Flonase), Mometasone (Nasonex).
There are also three medications that can be purchased over the counter: Budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy), Fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief), Triamcinolone (Nasacort AQ, Nasacort Allergy 24HR).
You can take antihistamines to treat allergies. They work by stopping your body from making histamine. Some popular over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines include: Fexofenadine (Allegra), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), Desloratadine (Clarinex), Loratadine (Claritin), Levocetirizine (Xyzal), Cetirizine (Zyrtec).
Oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Afrinol, and others) can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, such as Oxymetazoline (Afrin, Otrivine , Drixoral) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine). Only use nasal decongestants for a few days in a row. Longer-term use of decongestant nasal sprays can actually worsen symptoms (rebound congestion).
Nonprescription saline nasal sprays will help counteract symptoms such as dry nasal passages or thick nasal mucus. Unlike decongestant nasal sprays, a saline nasal spray can be used as often as it is needed.
Sometimes an allergist may recommend washing (douching) the nasal passage. There are many OTC delivery systems for saline rinses, including neti pots and saline rinse bottles.
Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn’t have serious side effects, though it’s most effective when you begin using it before your symptoms start.
Leukotriene pathway inhibitors (Montelukast, Zafirlukast and Zileuton) block the action of leukotriene, a substance in the body that can cause symptoms of allergic rhinitis. These medications are also used to treat asthma and are only available by prescription. Montelukastwas recently given a warning from the FDA regarding potential behavioral changes.
Immunotherapy may be recommended for people who don’t respond well to treatment with medications or who experience side effects from medications. Immunotherapy can be very effective in controlling allergic symptoms, but it doesn’t help the symptoms produced by nonallergic rhinitis.
Two types of immunotherapy are available: allergy shots and sublingual (under-the-tongue) tablets.
Eye allergy preparations may be helpful when the eyes are affected by the same allergens that trigger rhinitis, causing redness, swelling, watery eyes and itching. OTC eyedrops and oral medications are commonly used for short-term relief of some eye allergy symptoms. They may not relieve all symptoms, though, and prolonged use of some of these drops may cause your condition to worsen.
Prescription eyedrops and oral medications also are used to treat eye allergies. Prescription eyedrops provide both short- and long-term targeted relief of eye allergy symptoms.
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