Nasal allergy, also known as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, is one of the most common forms of allergies, affecting millions of people in the United States alone. Though usually not dangerous, rhinitis can be incredibly uncomfortable and greatly impact your quality of life.
Like most allergies, rhinitis is caused when the body’s immune system over-responds and sends antibodies to attack an intruder. In the case of rhinitis, this immune reaction is typically related to pollen, mold, dust mites, animal hair and other irritants.
Many people who react to pollen are said to have seasonal allergic rhinitis. They typically experience the worst effects in spring and late summer. In other instances, however, nasal allergies persist year-round because of problems with pet hair, tobacco smoke and other potential allergens. This is known as perennial allergic rhinitis.
Symptoms of Nasal Allergies
Itching, persistent sneezing, a runny nose and nose congestion from blockage are the most common signs of allergic rhinitis. Often other symptoms are also present, such as itchy eyes and a sore throat and cough from post-nasal drip. As the symptoms persist, headaches, facial pain and dark circles under the eyes can occur.
Treating Nasal Allergies
One of the best ways to prevent nasal allergy irritation is to simply avoid it by staying indoors during times of high irritation, driving with your car windows up or wearing a pollen mask when working outdoors. Over-the-counter medication may also be helpful in curbing some nasal allergy symptoms, but discuss with your doctor which drugs would be best for you because the medications have side effects. Some of the newest forms of medication, however, have far fewer side effects, but you still should discuss these with your doctor before you start taking them.
If nasal allergy symptoms persist, it’s probably best to consult with an allergist. He or she can offer advice and prescribe medication for dealing with more challenging cases of allergic rhinitis.
SOURCES: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery
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