What is allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the nasal lining due to an allergic reaction. As we breathe in air, small particles of the offending allergen are deposited on the nasal lining. These cause a reaction in individuals who have an allergy to them.
What are its common causes?
Hay fever is a common form of allergic rhinitis. Here the offending allergen is grass pollen. Other common air borne allergens include dust, dust mite, fungal spores, feathers, dog hair, and cat dander. It is not uncommon to have a person who is allergic to more than one allergen.
What are its symptoms?
The classical symptoms of allergic rhinitis are nose itching, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, and a blocked nose. However, patients who have an allergy to dust or dust mites, and are exposed to these throughout the year, may manifest nasal blockage as their main symptom. Thus, not having the classical symptoms does not mean a person does not have allergic rhinitis. Persistent, uncontrolled allergic rhinitis can give rise to nasal blockage and other annoying symptoms such as catarrh, runny nose, and post nasal drip.
How is it managed?
A good history and examination can provide the diagnosis, but confirmation requires allergy tests. These can be a skin test or a blood test. Identifying allergens is important to initiate avoidance measures.
Allergic rhinitis can be managed successfully, but at the present time there is no cure. Avoidance of allergens and medication are the mainstay of treatment. Many patients have an initial improvement of their symptoms, and decide to stop treatment. Unfortunately, symptoms return. Therefore it is important to persist with the treatment to have long term benefit.