Conditions InDepth: Allergic RhinitisEn Español (Spanish Version)
Allergic rhinitis refers to a group of symptoms—such as a runny or itchy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing—that result from inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes. A common, but inaccurate, name for this condition is hay fever. It is estimated that 40-50 million people in the United States develop allergic rhinitis during their lifetime. Allergic rhinitis precedes the onset of asthma in over 50% of cases so seeing a doctor as early as possible is recommended.
Allergic Rhinitis With Severe Swelling of the Nasal Tissues
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Mucous membranes in the nose may become inflamed when certain airborne allergens—such as dust, pollen, mold, or animal dander—are inhaled. For those who are sensitive, these allergens stimulate an excessive immune reaction.
The body produces an immunoglobulin antibody (IgE) specific to that allergen and binds to mast cells that produce chemicals, such as histamines. This is called “sensitization.” The next time your body comes into contact with the allergen, the antibody recognizes it, and the histamine is released. The histamine causes dilation of nasal blood vessels and inflammation of the mucous membranes, which result in common allergy symptoms.
Types of Allergic Rhinitis
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
- Seasonal—Symptoms occur only at certain times of the year, usually spring, summer, and early fall. In most cases, people with seasonal allergic rhinitis are sensitive to pollens from trees, grasses, weeds, or airborne mold spores.
- Perennial—Perennial allergic rhinitis causes symptoms all year-round. People who have this form of allergic rhinitis are generally allergic to house dust mites, cockroaches, animal dander, and/or mold spores. Occasionally, food allergies may cause perennial allergic rhinitis.
Complications of Allergic Rhinitis
In general, allergic rhinitis is a relatively mild condition that may cause discomfort, but is seldom serious. Some complications associated with allergic rhinitis include:
What are the risk factors for allergic rhinitis?
What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?
How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed?
What are the treatments for allergic rhinitis?
Are there screening tests for allergic rhinitis?
How can I reduce my risk of allergic rhinitis?
What questions should I ask my doctor?
Where can I get more information about allergic rhinitis?
Advice from your allergist: Rhinitis. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.acaai.org/public/advice/rhin.htm. Accessed September 15, 2008.
Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated September 2008. Accessed September 15, 2008.
Last reviewed July 2008 by Elie Edmond Rebeiz, MD, FACS
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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