Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a widely known condition in the United States, where it affects one out of every five people. It occurs due to the overreaction of the immune system with allergic substances (or “allergens”). These allergens – such as pollens, mites, mold, pet dander and dust – are usually breathed in by the affected person. In general, allergic rhinitis can be of two types: namely, seasonal allergic rhinitis and perennial allergic rhinitis. The former – also known as hay fever – occurs due to allergens present outdoors while the latter occurs from allergens present indoors.

Allergic rhinitis has symptoms similar to cold. These symptoms are caused when the immune system – upon reaction with allergens – sends IgEs and histamines into the breathing airways. The most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are:

  • Persistent sneezing;
  • Coughing;
  • Swelling around the eyelids;
  • Itchiness in the eyes;
  • Itchiness in the throat, mouth and the ears;
  • Soreness in the throat;
  • Runny nose;
  • Mild or severe headache;
  • Pressure or pain around the face;
  • Weakness;
  • Difficulty in listening, smelling or tasting;
  • Dark eye circles.

The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against germs and microbial organisms. When it senses allergens in the body, it treats the allergens in the same way as harmful viruses and bacteria, even though these allergens are not dangerous. This type of overreaction of the immune system is known as allergic reaction.

Usually, people whose parents have allergies or who themselves have allergies are most likely to develop allergic rhinitis. Also, the risk is higher for men than women and people who breathe in secondhand cigarette smoke.

Diagnosing allergic rhinitis is easy – but with the help of a doctor. The doctor usually tries to find clues from the patterns of the symptoms. Information on whether the symptoms become more intense during a particular time period or whether symptoms aggravate when coming near to a pet, is especially helpful.

The doctor then observes the patient’s conditions closely (a “physical exam”) and then carries out a skin test. This skin test is usually a “scratch test”. Here, a little amount of allergens – which cause or are thought to cause – are put on to the skin of the patient with the help of a scratch or a needle prick. If the skin becomes red and swells to what is called a “hive” – within twenty minutes from the point of being in contact with the allergens – then it shows that the patient is suffering from allergic rhinitis. Further tests –such as blood tests – are conducted to determine the type of allergens responsible for causing this rhinitis.

The symptoms of allergic rhinitis are annoying and can easily take away attention from other important activities. As a result, people should try to manage these symptoms. This is best done by avoiding being in contact with allergens. However, this is not always possible since most of the allergens are present in the air. Even then, taking the following precautions will be helpful:

  1. Spend time indoors as much as possible.
  2. Keep the windows closed in order to prevent outdoor allergens like pollen from coming inside.
  3. Keep the air conditioner turned on always.
  4. Take a shower and changing clothes soon after returning home from outside.
  5. Keep the air in the bedroom allergen-free by using a HEPA air filter.
  6. Use dust mite covers for mattress and pillows.
  7. Never let pets inside the bedroom.
  8. Use hardwood or tile floors instead of rugs or carpets. Even if rugs are used, they must be regularly washed in extremely hot water.
Last updated on Aug 15th, 2010 and filed under Immune System. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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