Hay Fever is also medically termed as rhinitis. It can be divided into Allergic Rhinitis and Non-Allergic Rhinitis.
Allergic Rhinitis occurs when the immune system wrongly identifies a harmless substance as an allergen and responded exaggeratingly by releasing histamines and other chemical mediators causing symptoms in the nose, the roof of mouth, throat, eyes, ears and skin.
Allergic Rhinitis can occur together with allergic conjunctivitis. It can exacerbate lung disease such as asthma in people who suffers from both conditions.
Non-Allergic Rhinitis, as the name suggested, is a condition that does not involve the immune system. People with Non-Allergic Rhinitis has similar symptoms of runny nose and nasal congestion, without a trigger. This tends to occur in the adult.
WHAT COMMON ALLERGENS CAN TRIGGER ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Indoor allergens cause perennial allergic rhinitis, meaning the symptoms can occur all year round. Common allergens include:
- Dust mite droppings
- Cockroach particles and droppings
- Skin flakes
- Pet dander
- Urine and saliva of pet
Outdoor allergens cause seasonal allergic rhinitis as it occurs the different time of the year when the pollen level is high in the air. Typically, in countries with four seasons, the symptoms tend to flare during spring and fall.
Irritants such as smoke, open burning, strong odours, change of humidity and temperature of the air can trigger allergic rhinitis by causing inflammation of the nose linings, hence sensitizing the nose to irritants.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HAY FEVER?
Typical symptoms include:
- Nasal congestion (stuffy nose) and Runny nose
- Itchiness of the nose, the roof of the mouth, throat, eyes, and ears
- Teary eyes
WHAT DO I EXPECT WHEN I CONSULT MY DOCTOR FOR HAY FEVER?
Your doctor will take a thorough medical history and allergy history, physically examine you. Your doctor will enquire on your lifestyle, home and work environment. An allergy diary may be useful. You may be offered allergy testing such as skin prick tests and allergy RAST blood tests to determine the triggers of your allergic rhinitis. Sometimes, your doctor may even refer you to an allergist or immunologist.
WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR HAY FEVER?
By identifying the culprit allergens, your doctor will work with you to develop a strategy to avoid the allergens as much as you can. In triggers that are inevitable such as in the case of seasonal allergic rhinitis, you may be recommended to start medications before you have contact with the allergens to prevent developing allergic rhinitis or reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Medical treatment options for hay fever include:
- Oral antihistamine or nasal antihistamine sprays
- Nasal corticosteroids spray
- Nasal saline preparation
- Nasal decongestion in the form of pills and sprays
- Immunotherapy such as sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) allergy spray or tablets
Consult your doctor if you have a sensitive snuffly nose! Take care.