Allergic rhinitis is an extremely common problem, but it is also something that people don't know nearly enough about. In this article, we'll provide an overview of what allergic rhinitis is, its causes and symptoms, and the treatment options available.
What Is Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis, commonly referred to as hay fever, is a condition that causes the nasal passages to inflame after exposure to an allergen. It is the result of an overreactive immune response; the body detects an irritant like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mold and initiates a defense response.
Tissue irritation, inflammation, and excess mucus production are the biggest byproducts of an allergic reaction. These reactions can affect the respiratory system, causing a host of symptoms, including congestion, sneezing, runny nose, postnasal drip, and sore throat.
Despite its name, hay fever is not an actual fever. Those who have it experience the aforementioned immune response after coming into contact with whatever allergen they're sensitive to. Symptoms last for the duration of exposure and tend to subside shortly afterward.
What Are the Different Types of Rhinitis?
Rhinitis refers to any reaction in the nose that causes nasal congestion. Allergic rhinitis is the most well-known form of it, but it isn't the only kind. Aside from allergic rhinitis, people can also experience infectious rhinitis, drug-induced rhinitis, and nonallergic rhinitis. We'll explain each in detail below.
Infectious rhinitis, sometimes called viral rhinitis, is a term used to define inflammatory nasal symptoms caused by an infection. The culprit is usually something common like a cold, flu, or other respiratory virus. The signs and symptoms are similar to those of hay fever but can last longer due to the severity of the infection. It's important to note that, unlike allergic rhinitis, infectious rhinitis is contagious and can be spread from person to person.
Drug-induced rhinitis is an uncommon form of rhinitis caused by certain medications. Ironically enough, the cause behind it is often medications used for allergic rhinitis. Over-the-counter (OTC) products and NSAIDs are known to cause symptoms like nasal inflammation, congestion, and itching as a side effect.
Non-allergic rhinitis is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of symptoms caused by inflammation in the nasal passages. It's different from hay fever because it's not caused by an identifiable allergen; instead, the inflammation is typically triggered by changes in temperature or humidity, exposure to chemicals, excessive alcohol consumption, asthma, and even certain foods. The symptoms of non-allergic rhinitis mirror those of allergic reactions but cannot be pinpointed to an exact cause. They tend to develop slowly and can last for months to years.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can vary from person to person, but pretty much always occur in the same areas of the body. As many common allergens - like pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander - are airborne, they enter the system through the nose and eyes before wreaking havoc in the respiratory tract.
Common signs of allergic rhinitis include:
- Itching and redness
- Watery discharge
- Swelling of the eyes and eyelids
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
Allergies are among the most common causes of rhinitis symptoms. But, you can't be sure that they're the cause of yours. Before looking for any kind of treatment, confirm the diagnosis with allergy testing. It can be done the conventional way, in a doctor's office, or at home with an at-home allergy test.
Trips to the doctor have long been the standard way people check for allergies. Your doctor will conduct a skin prick test, which can be an uncomfortable experience. During the test, tiny needles will be used to inject various allergens directly into the skin. If you're allergic to a particular substance, the area around the injection site will swell up, signaling that you have an allergy.
However, if you'd rather skip the trip to the doctor, there is an alternative. At-home testing is a newer and much less invasive way of detecting allergies. Wyndly’s at-home test kit makes testing easy. All that's required is a finger prick to collect a small sample of blood, which is then sent off to a lab. Our allergy doctors then interpret your results and work with you to create a personalized treatment plan for your specific allergies.
Management and Home Remedies
There are several simple steps you can take to reduce your exposure to your allergy triggers and manage your symptoms.
The most effective and immediate way to reduce allergy symptoms is to avoid any known triggers. This means staying indoors on days with high pollen counts, investing in an air purifier for your home, keeping pets out of the bedroom, and generally minimizing contact with anything you suspect of causing your allergic reaction.
Medications and Nasal Sprays
OTC medications help temporarily reduce the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, and nasal sprays can reduce the levels of histamine in your body and relieve discomfort. Brands like Claritin, Allegra, Flonase, Zyrtec, Afrin, and Rhinocort are all examples of OTC medications you can use. However, these products are only a temporary fix and should be used with caution.
Using a neti pot or a saline rinse to flush out your nasal passages is one of the most popular home remedies for rhinitis. This simple procedure involves pouring a saltwater solution into the nostril and letting it rinse out the other one. It helps remove any allergens or irritants stuck in your nasal cavity and can make you feel better.
Hot Water Steam Inhalation
Breathing in hot, moist air has long been a go-to for treating any kind of respiratory issue. Doing this can help soothe your throat and nose, reduce irritation, and open up airways.
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine that helps reduce inflammation in the body. Increasing your intake of vitamin C-rich foods, such as oranges and kale, can help reduce inflammation associated with allergy symptoms.
Unfortunately, scientists have yet to discover an instant cure for allergies. But they have found some innovative ways to reduce its symptoms over time through allergy immunotherapy. There are two main types of allergy immunotherapy: allergy shots and sublingual immunotherapy.
Allergy shots, or subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT), is an injection-based therapy that works to reduce allergic sensitivity. The process involves introducing small amounts of the allergen into your body over a period of time, gradually desensitizing you to its effects. SCIT is the more well-known form of immunotherapy and has been administered to individuals with allergies for years, however, it can be very uncomfortable and time-consuming, requiring frequent shots and visits to the doctor.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) works the same way that allergy shots do but delivers the allergen via a tablet or drop instead of an injection. The treatment is administered by placing a small amount of allergen under your tongue and letting it be absorbed by the body. Sublingual immunotherapy is just as effective as allergy shots and can be done at home and does not require regular visits to the doctor.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you're ready to take control of your allergies, Wyndly is ready to help. Our allergy doctors will work with you to identify the allergens causing your allergic rhinitis and will create a personalized treatment plan to help you live allergy-free. Take our quick online allergy assessment today and see if Wyndly is right for you.