Rhinitis is the inflammation or irritation of the mucous membranes lining the nose. When rhinitis is caused by allergies, it is referred to as allergic rhinitis or "hay fever."
Allergic Rhinitis is a term which refers to inflammation or irritation of the mucous membranes lining the nose. When rhinitis is caused by allergies, it is referred to as allergic rhinitis or "hay fever".
- Runny nose, stuffy nose, itching, and sneezing. May also have itchy, red, water eyes
- When symptoms occur all year round they are usually caused by allergens that are constantly present in the environment, such as pets or dust mites.
- When the nose is inflamed all of the time, common colds (virus infection of the nose) will cause much more severe nasal symptoms which last much longer then usual.
- Symptoms that increase during certain seasons are usually caused by specific pollens:
- spring-tree and grass pollen
- summer through fall- weed pollen
- late summer through fall- ragweed pollen
BACK TO TOP
- Allergic shiners: the dark circles under eyes caused by nasal congestion
- Allergic salute: the rubbing motion done with the palm of the hand due to nasal itching. Rubbing can result in a crease along the nose.
- Mouth breathing from nasal congestion can interfere with the normal development of the face.
- The lining of the nasal cavity may appear swollen and pale blue.
- The back of the throat may show "cobblestoning" or bumps.
- Examination of the nose is important to rule out other causes of blockage such as polyps (growth of tissue on the mucus membranes), a deviated septum or a foreign body.
The inflammation and swelling caused by allergic rhinitis may lead to poor drainage of secretions leading to sinus or ear infections.
A cough associated with allergic rhinitis may represent reactive airways or asthma. You should notify your health care provider if the cough:
- Occurs during the night
- Is associated with mucus in the chest or vomiting mucus
- Is worsened with physical activity, or
- Persists for longer than a week
One particular form of non-allergic rhinitis, called rhinitis medicamentosa, occurs when over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays (e.g., AFRIN nasal spray or NEOSYNEPHRINE nasal spray) are used regularly. These nasal sprays are very different from prescription nasal sprays used to treat allergic rhinitis.
BACK TO TOP
- Skin testing is used to confirm suspected allergens.
- Prick or scratch testing is done with extracts (liquid forms of the allergens) and a device to puncture the very top surface of the skin.
- Please note that only about 80% of patients showing symptoms to allergens in the air will have a positive test by this screening method
- Intradermal testing may be done when the prick skin test is negative. It is a more sensitive test which involves putting the extract under the skin with a needle. We will perform this test if there is a need to make a decision which allergens will be included in extracts to be given for "allergy shots" (allergen immunotherapy or "IT").
Treatment is first directed at limiting exposure to individual allergens and irritants. When this is not effective, medications are then given. Immunotherapy, or "allergy shots" are given when environmental control and medications still do not adequately control symptoms.
- Antihistamines are most commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis.
- Antihistamines prevent or relieve itching, sneezing and runny nose.
- They can be combined with a decongestant to also relieve nasal congestion.
- There is some advantage to taking antihistamines regularly during an allergy season, but they are also helpful if taken only when needed.
Fist generation antihistamines are older and often available without a prescription
BACK TO TOP
Nasal steroids are medicines that reduce inflammation in the nasal passages. They are sprayed into the nose to prevent all symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Commonly used brand names include NASACORT nasal spray, RHINOCORT nasal spray, FLONASE nasal spray and NASONEX nasal spray.
The medication may take several days to several weeks to have an effect and must be given to your child every day as directed. Side effects may include burning, irritation, nosebleeds, dryness and increased sneezing.
Since nasal steroids act locally, they are considered safe, even in children. If you have any concerns about using this type of medication, please discuss this with your health care provider.
To use this medicine:
- First have your child clear his nasal passages by blowing his nose.
- Then, with his other nostril pinched closed, he should insert the nosepiece gently into the nostril and aim the spray out and down the nasal passage (not toward the middle of his nose) and sniff gently.
- Pinching the same nostril after a liquid preparation is sprayed may help keep the medicine from running out of the nose.
- Young children do not need to sniff if they are unable. You may have some success if you give your child the medication while he is sleeping.
Resources on allergies and allergic rhinitis
BACK TO TOP
Reviewed by: Paulette Taylor, RN, CPN, AE-C
Date: February 2009