How to Manage Allergic Rhinitis

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Allergic Rhinitis is a global health problem that affects roughly 10 to 25 percent of the total population and is also considered to be one of the top ten reasons of patient visits to primary care clinics. In the United States alone, around 40 million to 60 million Americans have this condition, which greatly decreases their work productivity, school performance and quality of life.

Allergic Rhinitis is initiated by a hypersensitivity reaction, or an IgE-mediated inflammation, of the body’s immune system to an otherwise harmless allergen. An allergen is a general term that refers to an antigen, or any substance, that incites an allergic reaction that may be different from person to person. Common allergens include plant pollens, molds, dust mites, animal fur and other irritants such as cigarette smoke, laundry detergents and cleaning solutions. The inciting antigen, then, causes the release of chemicals leading to mucosal edema, redness and mucus secretion of the nose.

Classification of Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic Rhinitis may be classified into two categories based on the duration and severity of their symptoms. The classification is as follows:

  1. Intermittent – In order to be classified as intermittent, the duration ofthe Allergic Rhinitis should be less than 4 days a week or less than 4 weeks. It usually presents with mild symptoms that is similar as to having colds and thus, not troublesome enough to affect sleep, work and school performance and other daily activities. These symptoms are the following:
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Congested or runny nose that may lead to postnasal drip
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Itchy ears, nose and throat
  • Headache
  1. Persistent
  • Lasts three to four days a week and has persisted for more than four weeks
  • Same symptoms as intermitted allergic rhinitis but is more severe that may disrupt normal sleep pattern and impair daily activity, such as work and school performance
  • Feeling fatigue
  • Irritability

Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis

There are several ways to determine whether a person is suffering from allergic rhinitis. To diagnose allergic rhinitis, the following are needed:

  • Detailed history of the patient – most important part in diagnosing; the following questions are asked:
    • When and what time of the day symptoms usually occur
    • Possible environmental exposure to various allergens
    • Family’s medical history
  • Complete blood count – to measure number of eosinophils
  • Skin testing of an allergen – easy and sensitive test
    • Done to pinpoint the specific allergen that causes the allergic attack

Management of Allergic Rhinitis

The best treatment to manage and limit Allergic Rhinitis is to avoid the inciting allergen completely.

To limit outdoor exposure to the allergen, the following may be done:

  • Wear protective gear such as face mask, glasses, gloves or boots when going out
  • Avoid air drying clothes outside
  • Avoid rubbing one’s eyes

To limit indoor exposure to the allergen, the following may be done:

  • Keep windows closed and regularly clean the airconditioning system
  • Regularly clean the areas inside the house using a mop or a rag instead of sweeping
  • Limit exposure to household pets and make sure to wash hands immediately

If the symptoms of the allergic attack are mild, some home remedies can be used such as a saline solution to help clear a clogged nose. Other pharmacologic treatments are as follows:

  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal corticosteroid spray
  • Decongestants
  • Leukotriene inhibitors
  • Allergy shot/immunotherapy

For severe allergic reactions, an epinephrine injection may be needed

An epinephrine in injector is used in severe allergic rhinitis
An epinephrine in injector is used in severe allergic rhinitis

To learn how to apply first aid on allergic rhinitis and severe allergic reaction, enroll in First Aid Classes and CPR Courses.

Allergic Rhinitis is a very common inflammatory condition of the nose that is highly preventable and manageable.

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