Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)
Do you suffer from headaches, runny nose, and itching eyes? These symptoms may be the result of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, an allergy that affects nearly 60 million people in the United States.
Mold spores, house dust mites, and grass and ragweed pollens can be present in the air we breathe. If a person who is sensitive to these particles – known as allergens – inhales them, they can trigger mucous membranes to swell in the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and sinuses. Allergic rhinitis occurs when a person becomes overly sensitive to allergens like these, a process that can take months or years. When a person is sensitized, this causes production of the allergic antibody, Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is made specifically in response to each allergen.
Allergic rhinitis symptoms may include a runny nose, sneezing, and itching of the eyes, ears, nose, or throat. Other symptoms may include tearing of the eyes, nasal swelling, sinus headaches, and sinus infections. Allergic rhinitis is seasonal if symptoms occur during pollination periods in the spring, summer, or fall. When allergic rhinitis symptoms occur on a year round basis, they are known as perennial. In Cincinnati, tree pollens are spread in early March through April. Grass pollens are encountered from mid-May through June and ragweed pollens are found from mid-August through the first frost in early October. Some allergens responsible for year round rhinitis include dust mites, molds, and animal proteins.
The evaluation and diagnosis of allergic rhinitis begins with a careful discussion of your past experiences (history) and physical examination by your health care provider. The history is directed toward the nature of the symptoms, the time of year they are worst and the triggers for symptoms. Skin testing with allergen solutions can confirm the suspected allergic factors. Skin testing should correlate with the patient’s history of symptoms. These tests will be explained and administered by a trained allergy nurse. Local swelling and itching at the skin test site usually indicates that an allergic antibody is present in relation to the substance being tested.
There is good news for people who suffer from the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Doctors can treat this condition with a three-step approach:
For more information:
Go to the Allergies health topic.