(Hay Fever; Seasonal Allergies)
Allergic rhinitis is the set of symptoms that occurs when you breathe in substances you are allergic to. These substances are called allergens and are small proteins.
An allergic reaction occurs when your body's immune system overreacts to an allergen. When you breathe in an allergen, cells in your nasal passages release a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes your nose to feel itchy. Histamine also causes swelling and mucus production in the nasal passages.
Risk factors that increase your chance of developing allergic rhinitis include:
Allergic rhinitis can cause the following symptoms:
Your doctor will try to find out which allergens you are allergic to. You may be referred to an allergist or immunologist. This is a doctor who specializes in allergies.
Tests may include:
Skin Prick Test
A tiny bit of an allergen is placed under the skin with a needle. The doctor watches to see if the skin in that area becomes red, raised, and itchy. This can be done for multiple allergens at the same time.
A small sample of blood is taken and tested for different allergens.
You breathe in air containing an allergen. The doctor will watch to see if you have an allergic reaction, such as wheezing or trouble breathing. This test is usually reserved for research settings.
The most effective way to treat allergies is to avoid the allergen. Since this can sometimes be difficult or impossible, other treatments are available.
Treatments may include:
Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots) and Sublingual Therapy
With immunotherapy, very small amounts of allergens are injected over weeks, months, or even years. The goal is to make your body's immune system less sensitive to those allergens. This treatment may be effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Another similar treatment called sublingual immunotherapy involves placing small amounts of allergens under the tongue. This treatment is more popular in Europe and is not approved in the United States. While it has shown to reduce symptoms in some studies, more research is needed.
If you are diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, follow your doctor's instructions.
The following strategies may help prevent allergic rhinitis:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Calgary Allergy Network
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever). American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.acaai.o.... Accessed October 31, 2012.
Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/. Updated October 24, 2012. Accessed October 31, 2012.
Middleton E. Allergy: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book, Inc; 2009.
Rhinitis. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.aaaai.o.... Accessed October 31, 2012.
8/11/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Durham SR, Yang WH, Pedersen MR, et al. Sublingual immunotherapy with once-daily grass allergen tablets: a randomized controlled trial in seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;117:802-809.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Purvee S. Shah, MD