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Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is your body's response to specific allergens. It causes uncomfortable symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes.

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What Is Allergic Rhinitis?

An allergen is a typically harmless substance that causes an allergic reaction. Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is an allergic response to specific allergens. Some typical allergens are grass, dust, and mold. Pollen is the most common allergen.

Your body releases histamine when it encounters an allergen. A histamine is a natural chemical that defends your body from the allergen. This chemical causes allergic rhinitis, which can have many uncomfortable symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes.

Seek treatment if you have this condition. It can interfere with your quality of life.

Types of Allergens

Common causes of allergic rhinitis include:

  • pollen
  • dust
  • animal dander (old skin)
  • cat saliva
  • mold

Pollen is the biggest culprit, especially during certain times of the year. Tree and flower pollens are more prevalent in the spring, while grasses and weeds produce more pollen in the summer and fall months.

Risk Factors for Allergic Rhinitis

Allergies can happen to anyone, but you’re more likely to develop allergic rhinitis if your family has a history of allergies.

There are also external factors that can trigger this condition or make it worse. These include:

  • cigarette smoke
  • chemicals
  • cold temperatures
  • humidity
  • wind
  • air pollution
  • hairspray
  • perfumes and colognes
  • wood smoke
  • fumes

Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis

The most common symptoms of this condition include:

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • stuffy nose
  • itchy nose
  • coughing
  • sore or scratchy throat
  • itchy and watery eyes
  • dark under-eye circles
  • frequent headaches
  • eczema-type symptoms, such as having extremely dry, itchy skin that often blisters
  • hives, which are red, sometimes itchy, bumps on the skin
  • excessive fatigue

Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis

People with minor allergies usually only need a physical exam. However, your doctor may recommend specific tests to help determine the best treatment and preventive measures.

A skin prick test is one of the most commonly used tests. During this test, your doctor places a variety of substances onto your skin to see how your body reacts to each one. Usually, a small red bump appears if you’re allergic to a substance.

Another common allergy test is a blood test, sometimes referred to as a radioallergosorbent test (RAST). The RAST measures the amount of immunoglobin E (IgE) antibodies to particular allergens that are present in your blood.

Allergic rhinitis can be either seasonal or perennial, which means they last all year.

Allergic Rhinitis Treatment

There are different ways to treat allergic rhinitis.


Antihistamines effectively treat allergies. They can also help prevent this condition because they block histamine formation in the body. Some over-the-counter versions may be helpful, but remember to always talk to your doctor before starting a new medication, especially if you take other medications or have other medical conditions.


You can use decongestants over a short period of time to help relieve stuffy nose and sinus pressure. Ask your doctor before use if you have high blood pressure or genitourinary disease, such as an enlarged prostate.

Eye Drops and Nasal Sprays

You can temporarily use eye drops and nasal sprays to relieve itchiness and other symptoms related to allergies. However, don’t use either product on a long-term basis.


Your doctor may recommend immunotherapy if you have severe allergies. This treatment is commonly known as allergy shots. You can use this treatment plan in conjunction with medications to control your symptoms. These shots decrease your immune response to particular allergens over time.

Preventing Allergies

The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to manage your allergies before your body has a chance to adversely respond to substances. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI) recommends starting medications before seasonal allergy attacks. For example, if you are sensitive to tree pollen in the spring, you may want to start taking antihistamines before an allergic reaction has the chance to occur.

Another effective way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to steer clear of the allergens that cause your symptoms. For instance, stay indoors when pollen counts are high and take showers immediately after being outside. Also, clean your home to remove pet dander, mold, and dust.


The outcome of treatment depends on your unique condition. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is usually not severe, and you can manage it well with medications. However, severe forms of this condition will likely require long-term treatment. Some people may even develop sinusitis (inflamed nasal passages that can cause breathing difficulties and pain) or asthma along with this condition.

Written by: Kristeen Moore
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Published: Oct 14, 2015
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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