Rhinitis is the medical term for irritation and swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose. This inflammation results in a runny nose, congestion, nasal itch, sneezing, postnasal drip, itchy throat, and watery eyes.
Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) occurs when allergens in the air trigger the release of a substance called histamine in the body. Histamine is a substance your immune system makes in order to get rid of something (like pollen) that bothers you, and it causes itching, swelling, and fluid to build up in the linings of nasal passages, sinuses, and eyelids.
Allergic rhinitis can occur on a seasonal basis or year-round, and there’s usually a family history of the condition. It can affect people of all ages, but year-round allergic rhinitis happens more often in younger children.
Fortunately, there is a wide range of effective treatment options for allergic rhinitis once it’s accurately diagnosed. The otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) at Cooper University Health Care are experts in diagnosing and treating this condition.
The Risk Factors for Allergic Rhinitis
The primary risk factors for developing allergic rhinitis are:
- Genetics: You’re more likely to develop allergic rhinitis if there’s a history of this condition in your family
- Environmental exposure: Contact with wide range of substances can trigger allergic rhinitis. The most common allergens are:
- Pollen from trees, grass, or weeds
- Dust mites
- Cockroach waste
- Animal dander
- Tobacco smoke
- Having asthma: Children with asthma are at a higher risk of developing rhinitis
- Having other allergies: The risk of developing rhinitis is increased if you have other allergic conditions such as eczema or food allergies
Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
These are the most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose, throat, eyes, and ears
- Clear drainage from the nose
Children with year-round allergic rhinitis may also have these symptoms:
- Ear infections that keep coming back
- Breathing through the mouth
- Poor performance in school
- A line or crease across the bridge of the nose from swiping the nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
How Allergic Rhinitis Is Diagnosed
Typically, the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis is made based on a thorough medical history and physical exam by an ear, nose, and throat specialist (otolaryngologist).
To determine the exact cause of your (or your child’s) symptoms, you may then be referred to an allergist, a medical doctor who is trained to do allergy skin testing. This specialized testing—referred to as a skin prick test or scratch test—checks for immediate allergic reactions to dozens of different substances at once.
Once you know the specific triggers of your allergic rhinitis, you’ll know what to avoid, and treatment can be tailored to your individual situation.
How Allergic Rhinitis Is Treated
Treatment depends on your age, overall health, tolerance for certain medications, how severe your symptoms are, and your personal preferences. Treatment choices for rhinitis may include:
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Asthma medication (controlling asthma may help control allergic rhinitis is some patients)
- Allergy shots (immunotherapy)
Prevention is also an important part of managing allergic rhinitis. Measures for avoiding exposure to the substances that trigger your allergic rhinitis include:
- Environmental controls, such as closing windows and using air-conditioning during pollen season, or getting rid of carpeting
- Avoiding areas where there is heavy dust, mites, or mold
- Avoiding contact with pets
Why Choose Us to Treat Allergic Rhinitis
With their advanced training and expertise, Cooper’s otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) are uniquely qualified to accurately diagnose and effectively treat allergic rhinitis, one of the most common conditions they see.
To learn more about the services available in the Division of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery or to schedule an appointment, please call 856.342.3113.