Allergic Rhinitis – Hay Fever

Allergic rhinitis (also called “hay fever”) affects 40 million people in the United States. It develops when you breathe in something you are allergic to, with consequent inflammation or swelling of the lining of your nose.

What are the signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

  • Signs of allergic rhinitis are similar to signs of a common cold but can last for more than 8-10 days and may include:
    • A stuffy nose or a runny nose.
    • Sneezing.
    • Itchy nose, itchy eyes or watery eyes.
    • Children might have dark circles under their eyes, or use the palm of their hand to push their nose up as they try to stop the itching (called the “allergic salute”).
    • Coughing caused by clear mucus running down the back of your throat.

What causes my allergic rhinitis?

  • Allergens that trigger allergic symptoms can be found both outdoors and indoors. When allergic rhinitis is caused by common outdoor allergens—such as mold or trees, grass and weed pollens, it is often referred to as seasonal allergies, or “hay fever.”
  • Allergic rhinitis may also be triggered by household allergens, such as animal dander, indoor mold, or the droppings of cockroaches or house dust mites.
  • If you have symptoms in spring, you are probably allergic to tree pollens.
  • If you have symptoms in the summer, you are probably allergic to grass and weed pollens.
  • If you have symptoms in late summer and fall, you probably are allergic to ragweed.
  • Dust mites, molds and animal dander cause symptoms all year.
  • Skin tests by an allergist/immunologist can help determine the etiology of your allergic symptoms.

What are my treatment choices?

  • Environmental control:
    • Although it’s best not to have pets when you have allergic rhinitis, washing your furry pet once a week and keeping it out of the bedroom and off the furniture will help.
    • Put pillows, box springs and mattresses in sealed plastic covers that keep out dust mites, and wash sheets in hot water every week.
    • Keep windows closed. If possible, get an air conditioner and run a dehumidifier, so that there will not be so many pollens and molds in the house.
  • Medical management:
    • Antihistamines and nasal sprays as prescribed by an allergist can be very helpful for controlling symptoms. Some are safe for young children and all are safe for adults.
  • Allergy Immunotherapy