Allergic Rhinitis

(Hay Fever; Seasonal Allergies)

Definition

Allergic rhinitis is irritation and inflammation in the nasal passages after exposure to allergens. Allergens are substances that cause an abnormal response of the immune system. The response can includes swelling of the nasal passage, runny or itchy nose, watery eyes, congestion and congestion pain, and sneezing. It may be:
  • Seasonal (intermittent) allergic rhinitis (sometimes called hay fever or rose fever)—This occurs during times of the year when allergens are in the air, like spring, summer, and fall. The most common allergens are tree, grass, or weed pollens.
  • Perennial (persistent) allergic rhinitis—This condition is caused by allergens that may be present year round. These may include chemicals, dust, dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, or mold spores. Symptoms may be present any time of year.

Causes

An allergic reaction occurs when your body's immune system overreacts to an allergen. When you breathe in an allergen, cells in your nasal passages release a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes your nose to feel itchy and creates swelling and mucus production in the nasal passages.
Site of Histamine Production
Nasal passage
This area has swelling and increased mucus production after contact with an allergen.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of having allergic rhinitis include:

Symptoms

Exposure to the allergen can cause:
  • Sneezing
  • Itching in the nose, eyes, throat, and ears
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Runny nose, nasal congestion
  • Congestion with sinus pressure
  • Postnasal drip and cough
  • Headache
  • Dark circles under your eyes

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