What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction to microscopic airborne particles known as allergens. The allergic reaction can occur in the form of sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, etc. This allergic reaction is also commonly referred to as hay fever.
Types of allergic rhinitis
There exist two types of allergic rhinitis.
- Seasonal allergies: They often occur in the autumn and spring seasons and are primarily brought on by outdoor allergens, such as pollen. They are quite common in children, teenagers, and young adults.
- Perennial allergies: They can occur at any point in the year or even throughout the year. They are usually brought on by indoor allergies, such as pet danders, dust mites, etc. They are pretty common in adults.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis
There are many symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Patients can experience a combination of the following symptoms either seasonally or perennially:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Constant sneezing
- Itchy throat and eyes
- Recurrent headaches
- Sore throat
- Dark circles beneath the eyes
- Difficulty in sensing smell
- Difficulty in breathing
- Collection of mucus in the throat.
- Clogged ears
Causes of allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis develops when an allergen in the air irritates the body’s immune system. Since the allergens are tiny, people can readily breathe in the allergens (irritants) through their mouth or nose.
Usually, most people don’t become sick from allergies. The immune system, however, misinterprets the allergen as a foreign invader when the patient has hay fever.
By releasing natural substances into the bloodstream – histamine being the primary chemical released – the immune system works to defend the body. Expelling the allergens causes the mucosa membranes in the eyes, nose, and throat to swell and become itchy.
Risk factors of allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis can affect anyone. However, inhaling particular irritants or experiencing the following factors can put patients at a high probability of developing the condition:
- A family history of hay fever.
- Atopic eczema (a skin condition that makes the skin feel itchy and irritated).
- Cigarette smoke
- Air pollution
- Cold temperature
- Certain perfumes
Allergic rhinitis diagnosis
To diagnose allergic rhinitis, we inquire about the symptoms patients experience, if they change with time or seasons, the level of exposure to allergens and pets, and their complete medical history. Besides this, we conduct a physical exam.
Additionally, to confirm the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis, we carry out two tests that include:
- Allergy blood test: We take the patient’s blood sample and send it to a lab to determine how their immune system reacts to a particular allergen.This test detects the type of allergy they suffer from. It also counts the number of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that are present in their bloodstream and are responsible for causing the allergic reaction and symptoms.
- Skin prick test: We prick or scratch the patient’s skin with a needle after applying a sample of various allergens. This enables the allergen to penetrate the skin’s surface.In case the patient suffers from allergic rhinitis, the area where the samples are placed will turn red, itchy, and inflamed in about 15-30 minutes. This test allows us to determine which allergen is causing the allergic reaction.
Allergic rhinitis treatment
The different ways of treating allergic rhinitis consist of the following:
The main goal behind lifestyle modifications is to reduce exposure to allergens that trigger allergic rhinitis. The lifestyle modifications involve:
- Keeping windows of the house and car closed during summer, spring, and autumn seasons.
- Washing hands after playing with pets.
- Avoiding touching the face with unclean hands.
- Using filters in air conditioners and vacuum cleaners.
- Encasing pillows and mattresses in dust mite covers.
- Donning sunglasses and a hat when outside the home to protect from pollen.
Antihistamines function by preventing the production of histamine, a chemical that causes symptoms when the immune system responds to an allergen. They help in relieving runny noses, sneezing, and itching.
Antihistamines are available as inhalers, pills, eye drops, nasal sprays, and liquids, such as Loratadine, Fexofenadine, Cetirizine, etc.
When an allergic reaction occurs, along with histamine, the body releases leukotriene. Leukotriene inhibitors block the release of leukotriene and prevent inflammation. They are available as pills, and the most commonly used one is called Montelukast.
Decongestants help clear sinus and nasal congestion. These medicines can be ingested orally as pills or liquids or applied topically via a nasal spray. They include Phenylephrine nasal spray, Pseudoephedrine, etc.
However, since taking them can cause serious complications, patients should not use them for more than three days.
Corticosteriod nasal sprays
Corticosteroid nasal sprays are very effective for treating allergic rhinitis. They help relieve inflammation and other symptoms. Patients can use them either continuously or intermittently.
This treatment method involves us giving patients allergy shots which contain a small proportion of allergens.
With every allergy shot, we increase the dosage of allergens. As time passes, the patient’s immune system becomes immune to the allergens and ceases to react to them.
Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction to irritants present in the air that results in a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, sore throat, etc. Patients experiencing the above symptoms and wanting to confirm their diagnosis can reach out to our ENT specialists.
At the CK Birla Hospital, our experienced ENT specialists use advanced technology for testing allergic rhinitis. They also make personalised treatment plans for the treatment of the condition.