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Allergic Rhinitis

Do you have runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, or itchy eyes in the spring and summer seasons? If you do, you may be suffering from allergic rhinitis.

Allergic rhinitis is a type of inflammation in the nose that occurs when your immune system is overreacting to allergens in the air. The most common symptoms are sneezing, runny nose, itching of nose, eyes, and ears, postnasal drip, tearing, red eyes, eye swelling, and congestion. The symptoms may closely resemble symptoms of common cold and cause headache, fatigue, and drowsiness, but usually does not accompany fever. In the United State, 30 to 60 million people are affected by allergic rhinitis each year.

The most common environmental allergens are pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet hair. A key to preventing allergic rhinitis is to avoid these allergens. Because pollens and outdoor molds are virtually present everywhere, it can difficult to completely avoid them. However, keeping doors and windows shut during pollen season can be helpful, as well as decreasing out door time. Taking daily shower is also helpful in removing pollen that is stuck to the hair and skin.

For dust mites, covering the mattress and pillow with hypoallergenic products can help decrease exposure. Additionally, bed linens should be washed every 2 weeks in hot water (at least 130°F) to kill any mites that might be present. Carpets should be avoided and dehumidifiers or air conditioning should be used as dust mites increase when humidity is above 50%.

For pet hair, the best option is to completely avoid animals. If this is not an option, animals should be kept in a non-carpeted room and out of bed room.

Most cases of allergic rhinitis respond to medications. Nose rinse with saline and antihistamines medications, such as Claritin, Allegra, and Benadryl are effective in treating allergic rhinitis. Nasal steroid spray is also recommended. If you have suffered from allergic rhinitis in the past, taking allergy medication 2 weeks before allergy season can help preventing the symptoms.

In severe cases, immunotherapy or allergy shots can be also helpful treating allergic rhinitis. Allergy shots show success rates as high as 80~90% for certain allergens. However, it is a long process as noticeable improvement is often not seen for 6 to 12 months, and the therapy should be continued 3-5 years if the treatment is helpful.

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