This was how Bose put it when Dr. Emeka asked her to describe her symptoms. “It’s a runny nose that won’t leave me alone,” she said. Bose complained of frequent sneezes and runny nose that often begin on most mornings on her way to work. She added that her staff bus usually passes through the dirt road on the side of town to pick her other staff members before getting to the office.
Bose said the symptoms had become burdensome and sometimes presented with itchy and teary eyes, which affect her work performance. “How can I stop this?” Bose exclaimed.
These symptoms are typical of a condition called allergic rhinitis, hay fever, an allergic response to harmless substances in the environment.
What Causes Allergic Rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis occurs after exposure to an environmental trigger, called an allergen. The allergen causes the body to release a substance called histamine to “protect” the body from the allergen. Histamine, in turn, causes runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and other symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Common allergens for allergic rhinitis include:
- Dust mites
- Animal dander
- Substances with a strong smell, including perfumes and colognes
- Cold air and humidity are also common triggers of allergic rhinitis
If pollen triggers your symptoms, you may experience seasonal allergic rhinitis, in which your symptoms only show up during pollen seasons.
Bose’s doctor explained that dust that gets to her nose when her staff bus drives through the dirt road is the likely trigger for her symptoms.
Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
The symptoms of allergic rhinitis occur in response to exposure to an allergen, and include:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes
- Teary eyes
- Sore throat
- Itchy throat
- Dark circles around the eyes
You may not feel all the symptoms at once; however, shortly after contact with an allergen, you may begin to experience one or more of them.
Allergic rhinitis is also related to other allergic conditions such as eczema – which causes dry and itchy skin – and asthma.
Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis?
You can treat allergic rhinitis in many ways. When you have symptoms, your doctor will prescribe medications called antihistamines that work by stopping the release of histamines. Remember that histamine is the chemical that produces the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Some common over-the-counter antihistamines include Benadryl, Loratadine, and Cetirizine.
Your doctor may also prescribe decongestants for short-term use, usually no longer than three days, to relieve your stuffy nose. Popular decongestants include pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, and oxymetazoline. Some of them come as nasal sprays. Overusing these drugs may cause a rebound effect, causing your symptoms to get worse.
If you also have eye symptoms (eye itch, teary eyes), your doctor may prescribe certain eye drops to treat the symptoms. Some of these eye drops are also available over-the-counter.
Preventing Allergic Rhinitis
The best way to manage allergic rhinitis is to avoid allergens. Tips to achieve this include:
- Cover your mouth and nose when in a dusty area and stay indoor during pollen periods
- Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves
- Bathe your furry pets at least twice a week to reduce dander
- Remove carpets and rugs from your rooms to reduce dust mites
- Close your windows and doors frequently during allergy season