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Overview of Allergic Rhinitis: Causes, symptoms, types, stages and treatment

Dr. Ajay KohliJan 17, 2024

Allergic Rhinitis occurs when your nose is irritated by something you are allergic to, such as pollen, resulting in sneezing and other symptoms. Most people can be treated with pharmacy medications. IThis article provides an overview of this disease highlighting its causes, symptoms, types, stages, and treatment methods.




Causes of Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic Rhinitis is caused by an allergic reaction. Common allergy causes include the following.

  • Pollen from trees, grass and weed (classic hay fever causatives)

  • Pet dander from dogs and cats

  • Mould

  • House dust mites

  • Wood dust, flour dust and latex

It should be noted that it is not similar to Non-Allergic Rhinitis, wherein the cause is different such as, having a cold, extreme temperature differences like very hot, too cold or humidity.

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

Symptoms that occur shortly after you come in contact with the substance you are allergic to include the following.

Symptoms that you may develop a little later include the following.

  • Frequent headaches

  • Coughing

  • Sore throat

  • Extreme fatigue

  • Irritability

  • Clogged ears

  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)

  • Puffiness under the eyes

  • Hives

Types of Allergic Rhinitis

There are two types of Allergic Rhinitis: Seasonal (occurs only at certain times of the year) and Perennial (occurs year around).

  • Seasonal allergic: Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis is caused by outdoor moulds and pollens in the air from grass, trees, and weeds in the spring, summer, and fall. Symptoms typically improve when the weather cools down or after a hard frost. 

  • Perennial Allergic Rhinitis: Perennial Allergic Rhinitis can occur at any time of year. Symptoms are frequently caused by indoor contaminants such as dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, or indoor mould.

Stages of Allergic Rhinitis

There are four stages of Allergic Rhinitis. 

Stage 1 (Intermittent): Symptoms are present less than 4 days per week and less than 4 weeks per year.

Stage 2 (Persistent): Symptoms are present more than 4 days per week and more than 4 weeks per year.

Stage 3 (Mild): Presence of symptoms which cause no interference with daily activities, leisure, school, or work.

Stage 4 (Moderate to severe): Presence of symptoms which do lead to impairment of daily activities, leisure, school, or work 

Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis

Your doctor will first perform a physical exam and ask about symptoms, and evaluate you for other conditions such as cold or asthma. He will ask you details about what time of the day you experience it, and if you have exposure to pets, etc. Allergy testing might be conducted.

Also, your doctor/healthcare provider may take a blood sample and send it to a lab for testing (Complete Blood Count: CBC test) to measure your antibodies to specific allergens.

Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis

Your doctor will write you the suitable medicine for you depending on your symptoms, age and overall medical record. If you are pregnant, your medications may differ because some allergy symptoms occur naturally during pregnancy. Several medicines can be used to treat rhinitis. These include the following.

  • Lifestyle and Allergens Avoidance: The best treatment is to avoid pollen allergens that cause your symptoms. However, this is not always possible. You should use and carry the prescribed medicines. While for mild rhinitis, a nasal wash can help clear the mucus from the nose. 

  • Antihistamines: Antihistamines are medicines that help relieve allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness. They can be taken by mouth or are available in the form of nasal sprays. Most of them are available over the counter, while some require a prescription.

  • Corticosteroids: Nasal corticosteroid sprays are often the most effective treatment option for Allergic Rhinitis. People with chronic symptoms benefit the most from this. They work best when used nonstop, but they are also helpful when used for shorter periods of time. They are effective even when used intermittently. 

  • Decongestants: They are helpful for reducing symptoms such as nasal stuffiness. They are available in the form of pills, nose sprays, and nose drops. Nasal sprays and drop decongestants should not be used for more than 3 days, as one becomes dependent on them. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully.

  • Other Medicines: Other medicines, such as leukotriene inhibitors, are prescription pills that block leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are chemicals your body releases in response to an allergen, which also triggers symptoms.

  • Allergy Shots (also called immunotherapy): These are options for people whose symptoms are difficult to control or when other treatments are ineffective. These shots or dissolvable sublingual tablets are administered on a regular basis so that your body becomes accustomed to them. The treatment's dosage can also be increased with each visit. Your body adapts and decreases your sensitivity to allergens over time, making your symptoms less severe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers about Allergic Rhinitis.


How to prevent or avoid Allergic Rhinitis?

If you have Allergic Rhinitis, prevention is not always possible. However, you can take the following steps to reduce the intensity of your symptoms.

  • Protect your eyes from pollen by wearing wraparound sunglasses.

  • Maintain a dry and well-ventilated home.

  • Wash pets at least once every two weeks and groom them outside on a regular basis.

  • Wash your pet's bedding on a regular basis and clean any furniture they have been on.

  • Dust with a damp cloth and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

  • Use hypoallergenic bedding and covers, and wash bedding on a regular basis at 60 degrees Celsius or higher.

  • Do not allow pets in bedrooms.

  • Do not go outside or dry clothes outside when the pollen count is high, if possible.

Can Allergic Rhinitis cause/lead to other problems?

Ear infections, sinusitis, recurrent sore throats, cough, headache, fatigue, irritability, altered sleep patterns, and poor school performance are some of the known complications. Children may occasionally experience altered facial growth and orthodontic issues. Most of these issues can be eliminated or reduced with allergy treatment.

How long does it take to get over Allergic Rhinitis?

It clears up on its own after a few days for most people. Rhinitis can be a chronic problem in some people, particularly those who have multiple allergies. Chronic means that it is always present or occurs frequently. With allergen exposure, rhinitis can last for weeks to months.

How can rhinitis be cured permanently?

There is no cure for Allergic Rhinitis, but the symptoms can be alleviated with nasal sprays and antihistamine medications. A doctor may recommend immunotherapy: a treatment option that can provide long-term relief.

Is there any escape from allergies?

Some allergens are tough to escape. Sometimes you may move to escape one allergen but end up developing another, for example, grass or other allergens in the new location. Because moving can be financially and emotionally stressful for a family, it should only be done after consulting with an allergist-immunologist.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. It is based on several secondary sources on the internet. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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