Allergic rhinitis is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways. It is one manifestation of atopy, the other two are asthma and atopic eczema. Symptoms occur when pollen, dust mites or animal dander or other allergens are inhaled by an individual with a sensitised immune system. Particulate matter in polluted air, and chemicals such as chlorine and detergents can also aggravate allergic rhinitis. Allergies caused by pollen of plants is called hay fever. When a person with allergic rhinitis breathes in allergens, it triggers the production of antibodies, immunoglobulin E (IgE) which causes the release of histamines. This, in turn, causes sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages, and an increase in mucus production. Those with a family history of allergies are likely to be predisposed to the condition.
Symptoms vary in severity from person to person. Symptoms that occur shortly after you come into contact with the substance you are allergic to may include:
- Itchy nose, mouth, eyes, throat, skin, or any area
- Problems with smell
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
Symptoms that may develop later include:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Clogged ears and decreased sense of smell
- Sore throat
- Dark circles or puffiness under the eyes
- Fatigue and irritability
The doctor will first conduct a medical history taking and a physical examination. You will also be asked about your symptoms such as what you could possibly be exposed to and how your environment, time of day or season triggers or affects your symptoms. Allergy testing may reveal the substances that trigger your symptoms. Skin testing is the most common method of allergy testing. Blood tests are also used to measure the levels of allergy-related substances, such as immunoglobulin E (IgE). Some people, especially children, may outgrow an allergy as the immune system becomes less sensitive to the allergen.