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Allergic Rhinitis - Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Published on Jul 27, 2022   -  5 min read


Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is an inflammatory condition of the nose caused due to the immune response of the body to certain allergens.

Allergic Rhinitis - Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What Is Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is an inflammatory condition of the nose. It is commonly known as hay fever. In this condition, there is an unusual response of the body’s immune system to certain things in the environment, which might not be the same for everyone. Such substances in the environment which trigger the immune system are known as allergens. The commonly seen allergens are pollen, dust, pet dander, and urine or fluids of certain insects. When these allergens enter the body through the nose or mouth, they result in the release of certain chemicals from the body known as histamine.

What Are the Types of Allergic Rhinitis?

The allergic rhinitis could be seen as seasonal or perennial.

  • Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis- The symptoms could be seen during spring, summer, and early fall. This could be due to an allergic reaction to the airborne pollens from plants and trees or from mold spores.

  • Perennial Allergic Rhinitis- People with this type of allergic rhinitis will have the symptoms throughout the year. This could be caused by dust mites, pet dander or hair, and molds. This does not seem to appear depending upon any season; the breakout can beat any time of the year.

What Causes Allergic Rhinitis?

The cause of allergic rhinitis is the allergens. But why do only some people get affected by these allergens?

  • It is because of the exaggerated reaction of the body's immune system to these things. The oversensitive immune system of the body reacts to the allergens producing antibodies against them. These antibodies in normal conditions are only released in case of an infection or illness to fight against them. These antibodies are specific proteins to fight against diseases.

  • Allergic reactions do not happen the first time the body encounters them. They recognize and memorize the allergen in the first encounter. So the next time these allergens enter the system, the body’s immune system recognizes them and produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the nose and the throat.

  • This antibody IgE will cause the cells to release many chemicals, one of which is histamine. This histamine will result in inflammation and increased production of mucus inside of the nose. This is what is seen as the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Some of the common allergens are:

  • Animals- The most commonly seen causative animals for allergic rhinitis are cats and dogs. In some cases, allergy is reported in cattle, rodents, and horses too. This could be caused by the dead skin flakes of cats and dogs rather than by the fur of these animals.

What Are the Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis?

Symptoms of hay fever include:

Also, allergic rhinitis can cause:

  • Decreased concentration.

  • Disturbed sleep.

  • Fatigue.

  • Decreased decision-making capacity.

  • Impaired eye-hand coordination.

This condition can greatly affect the day-to-day life of children. The children could be moody and irritable during allergic seasons. It might even affect the child’s interaction with other children in the school. This can affect sleep during the night, and hence the child might miss school during the allergic season. With proper treatment, the symptoms could be better and would not interfere in the child's daily life.

How to Diagnose Allergic Rhinitis?

  • It is difficult to diagnose allergic rhinitis as the symptoms shown in this condition are not specific to it. These symptoms can arise because of other conditions too. To diagnose this condition, a medical practitioner would take a detailed medical history. The doctor would ask if there are any triggering factors that cause this.

  • The medical practitioner will do an examination of the nasal cavity in order to eliminate other causes. Also, on examination, they will look for the presence of nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are growths inside the nasal cavity. They are caused due to inflammation because of allergic rhinitis.

Allergy testing can be done in order to confirm allergic rhinitis. There are two types of skin testing done:

  • Skin Prick Test - This is a type of percutaneous test done where the allergen is introduced in the first layer of the skin, and if the person is allergic to it, then a small bump is formed on the skin.

  • Blood Test - In this test, the presence of immunoglobulin E is tested, which is produced in response to the allergen.

There are commercial kits available, but these tests are not recommended as they are of a lower standard than that provided by the NHS and accredited by the private clinic.

It is also important to show these results to the medically qualified doctor who has the knowledge of your complete detailed history.

Also, other tests might be needed to check for the complications such as nasal polyps or sinusitis:

  • Nasal Endoscopy- It is a tube with a camera and light fitted to its end so as to visualize the nasal cavity.

  • A Nasal Inspiratory Flow test- It is a test done to measure the airflow when you inhale through the nose. The device is placed over the nose and the mouth.

  • CT Scan- It is done to view the detailed structures inside the nasal cavity so as to diagnose the presence of any growths, etc.

What Are the Treatment for Allergic Rhinitis?

Medications could be useful for cases of allergic rhinitis and will improve the symptoms. The medicines could be in the form of pills, nasal sprays, nasal drops, eye drops, and injections. Always take a medical consultation before taking medicines, especially if you are pregnant and have other conditions. Your medical practitioner could prescribe:

  • Antihistamines- Antihistamines block the release of histamine, which is responsible for allergic reactions. They could be available over the counter or with a prescription. Antihistamines come as pills, liquids, eye drops, nasal sprays, and inhalers. These classes of drugs can cause drowsiness, so driving after taking these medicines should be avoided.

  • Decongestants- Decongestants are taken for nasal congestion. This is available in the form of pills as well as nasal sprays. Decongestants should not be taken continuously for longer periods as they can cause addiction. They can also increase blood pressure and cause headaches.

  • Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays- This will reduce the inflammation, and hence the symptoms of nasal congestion and others are reduced. The side effects could be headaches, nosebleeds, nasal irritation, and cough. So over time, the body gets familiarized with the allergen, and the immune response will be reduced.

  • Immunotherapy- It is also known as hyposensitization or desensitization; it is the treatment method in which the allergens are introduced into the body. Every time they give an injection of allergen, they increase the amount of allergen injected.


Allergic rhinitis is the inflammation of the nasal cavity due to the hyper response of the immune system to the allergen. The symptoms will range from irritation in the nose, eyes, and throat to decreased quality of life. It greatly affects one’s day-to-day living. Hence proper care and medication are to be taken for this condition. The diagnosis could be made by performing tests like skin prick tests and blood tests. The symptomatic treatment of this condition can be done using certain medicines also, and procedures like immunotherapy can be done in order to get a more long-term result.


Last reviewed at:
27 Jul 2022  -  5 min read




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