Hay fever and allergic rhinitis can cause suffering for millions of people around the world. In the United States, it is estimated that up to 30 million people suffer from these medical conditions. My article explores these conditions in detail and lists the main treatments currently available.
What is hay fever and allergic rhinitis?
They are an immune system disorder in which the body reacts to harmless substances in the environment such as pollen, dust, mold, hair and food. The substances that produce allergies are called allergens.
What are the causes of hay fever and allergic rhinitis?
Allergens cause the activation of a certain type of antibody known as IgE. This antibody triggers the release of certain chemicals from the cells of the nose, throat and eyes such as histamine, causing an extreme inflammatory response and associated allergic symptoms. The main causes of allergies are the following;
Hereditary (runs in the family)
Gender (boys have a higher risk of developing an allergy than girls)
Alteration in exposure to infectious diseases during early childhood
What are the symptoms?
Hay fever and allergic rhinitis are the most common types of allergic diseases. Symptoms arise from inflammation of the nasal passages, throat and eyes after inhalation of allergens such as pollen, mold, dust etc. Symptoms include;
Itching in the ears and throat
Post nasal drip (mucous membranes flows along the back of the throat)
Sleep disturbance and snoring
Loss of taste and smell
Itching, eye pain and swelling
What types of treatment are available?
OTC anti-inflammatories – Nurofen etc. They can relieve inflammation and pain, however they can cause side effects. They are not particularly useful for allergies because they do not reduce histamine production.
OTC decongestants – OTC decongestants can take the form of tablets, liquids or nasal sprays. Examples of these are Vicks Sinex and Sudafed. These are not really suitable for allergies since they should not be used for a long period of time.
Steroid nasal sprays – Flixonase is useful for allergy sufferers as it can reduce nasal congestion etc. By reducing inflammation. However, it can cause side effects.
OTC antihistamines – Clarytin etc. They can be used to reduce histamine production and subsequently allergic symptoms, e.g. nasal congestion, runny nose etc. They can cause drowsiness and other side effects.
Naturally Formulated Nasal Sprays – SinuSoothe contains natural ingredients that reduce inflammation and associated symptoms. It also contains an antihistamine and decongestant, so it can relieve runny nose, nasal congestion etc. This can be used daily for an indefinite period of time.
Nasal irrigation and saline nasal sprays – Nasal irrigation and saline nasal sprays such as Sterimar can relieve sinus congestion and get rid of allergens trapped in the nasal cavities. The two types of solution that can be used are isotonic or hypertonic. Isotonic solutions contain a salt content similar to the human body while hypertonic solutions contain more salt. Hypertonic solution is thought to be better at reducing inflammation.
Steroid tablets – If you have severe allergies that seriously interfere with your life (as at the time of the exam), your doctor can very rarely prescribe a short cycle of steroid tablets. However, they can cause side effects.
Natural Antihistamines – Butterbur has been shown to be as effective as OTC antihistamines. Quercetin is another excellent natural antihistamine. Unlike OTC antihistamines, there are very small side effects.
Antihistamine nasal sprays – Astelin and NasalCrom can reduce the amount of histamine produced in the nasal tissue, therefore they can be effective in reducing nasal symptoms. However, they can cause side effects.
Reduce inflammation naturally – Various supplements such as turmeric, ginger, omega oils, serrapeptase etc. They can help reduce inflammation naturally and relieve allergy symptoms.
Pollen barriers – Pollen barriers such as petroleum jelly or a special barrier gel inside the nostrils can capture pollen before it enters the nasal passages, thus alleviating the symptoms of hay fever.
Eye drops – If you suffer from itchy or painful eyes, eye drops that contain antihistamines or sodium chromoglycate may help. Natural eye drops are also available.
Red light phototherapy – This involves inserting two thin red light probes into the nostrils. Light reduces inflammation.
Immunotherapy: this is often a last option. Small amounts of the allergen you are allergic to are injected into your body or ingested in the form of tablets, to gradually desensitize your immune system to the allergen. You must receive an allergic clinic to receive this treatment.
Prevention of hay fever
Keep doors and windows closed when the pollen count is high.
Stay away from areas where there is more pollen such as grass parks, especially in the early morning, late afternoon and evening when the pollen count is higher.
Wear wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen away from the eyes.
Take a shower and wash your hair after going out when the pollen count is high.
Do not dry your laundry outside if the pollen count is high – pollen may get trapped in the fibers of clothes and bedding.
Prevention of allergic rhinitis
The only way to prevent allergic rhinitis is to avoid the allergen that causes it, so allergy tests are important to identify the exact indoor allergen that causes the allergy.
The eradication of house dust mites can help if special attention is paid to the bedroom.
Synthetic duvets and pillows are better than duvets.
The old mattresses house up to 10,000 dust mites, so use mite waterproof mattress covers.
Wash pillowcases and blankets at 60 degrees centigrade.
Use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a HEPA filter.
Choose hardwood and laminate floors, not heavy pile rugs.
Discourage cuddly toys and mess.
Ventilate the bedroom regularly to reduce humidity.
For severe pet allergies, unfortunately it is best to remove the pet permanently from home. The cat’s allergen spreads through the air throughout the house, even if the cat is limited to specific areas. Although short-haired and female pets carry less fur on their fur, all furry pets can trigger allergies including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils and mice.
For food allergies it is simply a matter of eliminating the particular food that causes allergy from the diet. For allergies caused by mold and / or fungus, any signs of these in your home environment should be completely removed. As with all medical conditions, always consult your doctor before undertaking new treatments.