Hay Fever & Seasonal Allergies

Rhinitis refers to inflammation of the nose's lining. When this inflammation is caused by an allergy instead of an infection, it is known as allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis can be divided into two groups: seasonal allergic rhinitis, which occurs at specific times of the year, and perennial allergic rhinitis, which can happen at any time throughout the year. The common term for allergic rhinitis is hay fever, and when people mention hay fever, they typically mean they have seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Frequent sneezing.
  • Itchy nose, eyes, palate, and ears.
  • Runny nose with a lot of watery fluid.
  • Watery, red, puffy, and often itchy eyes.
  • Nasal congestion, and sometimes blocked ears.
  • Sore throat, coughing, and hoarseness.
  • Bad breath.

If allergic rhinitis is severe and left untreated, it can disrupt your sleep at night and make you feel drowsy during the day. It may also increase the risk of sinus and eye infections. If you have asthma, allergic rhinitis can worsen your asthma symptoms and make them harder to control.

The causes of allergic rhinitis are substances in the air that are inhaled through the nose. These include pollen from grass, weeds, and trees; dust mite allergens found in house dust mite feces; mold spores; animal dander, particularly from cats; and, less commonly, cockroach droppings.

To diagnose allergic rhinitis, it is important to consult with a doctor who can determine if your symptoms are indeed caused by allergic rhinitis or some other condition. Your doctor may gather your medical history and conduct allergy blood tests or skin-prick tests to identify specific allergens. Knowing which allergen triggers your symptoms is crucial for effective treatment and allergen avoidance.

Treatment for allergic rhinitis involves various approaches:

  • Allergen avoidance: Although it may be challenging to avoid allergens like pollen, you can minimize exposure by engaging in indoor activities during the pollen season, staying indoors on windy days or after a thunderstorm, avoiding lawn mowing, showering after outdoor activities with high pollen exposure, and keeping pets that cause allergies outdoors. Taking steps to reduce house dust mites in your home, such as proper ventilation, avoiding moisture build-up, using dust-mite-proof covers for mattresses and pillows, and regular cleaning with damp dusting techniques, can also help.
  • Medicines: Your doctor may prescribe or recommend over-the-counter medicines to alleviate and prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms. These may include non-sedating antihistamines for daytime use, corticosteroid nasal sprays, short-term decongestants (less than 5 days), and combination products containing antihistamines and decongestants. In some cases, your doctor may suggest specific nasal sprays like ipratropium bromide for severe runny nose or sodium cromoglycate nasal spray to prevent symptoms. Montelukast sodium, a prescription medicine, may be prescribed for both allergic rhinitis and asthma.
  • Immunotherapy: If allergen avoidance and medications don't provide sufficient relief, immunotherapy may be considered. This treatment involves receiving small amounts of the allergen through repeated injections over several years, gradually increasing the dose. The goal is to desensitize your body to the allergen, reducing or even eliminating your symptoms. Immunotherapy is prescribed by an allergy specialist.

You can consult with an online telehealth doctor via TeleDoc to determine the most suitable treatment options for you. 

Written and reviewed by Dr Ahmad Zeeshan.