ALLERGIC RHINITIS (HAYFEVER)
What is rhinitis?
Rhinitis is defined as inflammation of the lining of the nose, characterised by one or more of the following symptoms: itching, sneezing, rhinorrhoea (runny nose) and nasal congestion (blocked nose).
Allergic rhinitis implies that the rhinitis is caused by hypersensitivity to allergens.
Allergic rhinitis is classified into two types; Seasonal & Perennial
Seasonal allergic rhinitis
Symptoms are usually started by contact with seasonal wind-borne pollens, e.g. grass and tree pollens or fungal spores. The symptoms usually occur in spring, early summer and with the change of seasons.
Perennial allergic rhinitis
Symptoms are due to sensitivity to, and contact with, allergens that are present in the environment throughout the year. These are usually indoor allergens such as house-dust mite, animal danders (cats and dogs), feathers, fungal spores and cockroaches.
Is Rhinitis serious?
Since allergic rhinitis occurs commonly, it is regarded by many as a trivial illness. But however it does negatively affect the quality of life of sufferers -not only because it may produce severe symptoms- but also because it may lead to complications. School and work related dysfunction is common. Sleep disturbances can result in chronic fatigue syndrome which impacts heavily on one's quality of life by limiting activities. This can cause emotional problems and impaired learning in children.
What can I do about allergic rhinitis?
Rhinitis is best treated by a doctor, who will make a differential diagnosis based on the clinical history, and an examination and do allergy testing. If you have previously been diagnosed by your doctor, you may discuss symptom relief with your pharmacist.
Your doctor can do certain tests to ascertain the case of the allergy. If your doctor is able to determine the cause of your allergy, avoidance of the allergen will be part of therapy. Environmental control measures can improve symptoms and reduce the need for medical treatment, and should therefore be seen as the primary treatment of allergic rhinitis.
Where mites are shown to be prevalent and causing problematic symptoms, the following should be considered:
- Regular damp dusting and vacuum cleaning
- Mattress and pillow covers are effective and cost-effective
- Expose mattresses to sunlight regularly
- Wash mattress covers and linen in hot water (above 60 degrees centegrade) weekly
- Wooden or tiled floors in the bedroom are preferable to carpets.
- If possible, remove the pet causing the problem
- Do not allow pets in the bedroom at any time
- Bath pets regularly, including cats.
The following often produce symptoms:
-Chlorine in swimming pools - nasal clips are recommended
-Cigarette smoke- the patient 's environment must be smoke-free. Ban smoking in the house, car and work place.
-Aerosols - deodorants, perfumes, etc.
There are many treatments available to control the symptoms of allergic rhinitis and your doctor will probably prescribe one that is suitable for your particular condition.
Treatment options include:topical steroids, topical antihistamines, anticholinergics and topical nasal decongestants.