Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as “hay fever,” is characterized by a runny or stuffy nose and itchy eyes, mouth or skin. Allergic rhinitis can be seasonal (due to mold spores or pollen), or perennial (due to things like dust mites, pet hair, or mold). There is also nonallergic rhinitis, which can have the same symptoms.
When Should I See A Doctor?
Allergic rhinitis can sometimes be taken care of at home with over-the-counter treatments. But it’s time to call your doctor if:
Your symptoms are severe.
Your cough or symptoms last longer than 1-2 weeks.
Your symptoms don’t respond to at home treatment.
You have sinus pain, fever, or yellow or green discharge from your nose.
Your symptoms disrupt your life.
Diagnosis of Allergic Rhinitis
A doctor usually diagnoses allergic rhinitis based on symptoms. You should be asked questions about what your symptoms are, when your symptoms occur, and if you’ve noticed anything that makes your symptoms worse. Your doctor may recommend skin and blood tests to identify what you’re having an allergic reaction to. A skin test involves your doctor pricking your skin with common allergens, and watching for swelling and redness. The blood tests can show compounds related to an allergic response.
At Home Treatments for Allergic Rhinitis
If your allergic rhinitis symptoms are mild to moderate, you may be able to treat them yourself using over the counter products. A nasal spray or neti pot can help wash the mucus out of your nose, and make breathing a little easier. Make sure you use a saline solution from a pharmacy, and to follow the directions. Avoid using saline sprays that contain benzalkonium chloride, though, as they may make your symptoms worse.
Some over the counter medications may prove useful, as well. Antihistimines such as Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra can help reduce the symptoms of your allergic reaction. There are also antihistimine nasal sprays available. Depending on your symptoms, you may want to try decongestants to reduce nasal congestion, but for no more than three days.
Prescription Treatments for Allergic Rhinitis
If your allergic rhinitis is severe, or is not responding to at home treatments, your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid spray. A corticosteroid works to directly reduce the inflammation.
Another option your doctor may explore is a leukotriene modifier. Leukotriene is produced by your immune system, and is the cause of the inflammation. Leukotriene modifiers block these compounds, preventing the allergic reaction.
Mast cell stabilizers are another option. Mast cells are directly involved in inflammatory and allergic reactions, and release different compounds that cause the allergic response. Mast cell stabilizers act by blocking the function of these cells.
If you can’t avoid the allergen and the other options aren’t working, your doctor may recommend allergy shots. These are small doses of the allergen, which helps your body get used to it over time. These usually work best for environmental allergies, like pollen.