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Allergic rhinitis: Is it seasonal or perennial?
Allergic rhinitis is a common affliction that involves inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane, sinuses and eyes. It is triggered by an overreaction of the immune system to an otherwise harmless substance, or allergen, such as pollen or dust mites.
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
- Nonseasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis, which lasts all year
- Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever or seasonal allergies, which occurs at the same time every year.
Allergy triggers and allergic susceptibility
The exact cause of allergies has not been identified at this point, but we do know that developing an allergy requires a certain (often hereditary) allergic susceptibility. Allergies can appear at any time, whether or not you have had them before.
- Perennial allergic rhinitis is triggered by allergens that are present all year round in a person’s home:
- Dust mites
- Dander (claws, hair, dandruff, etc.) and saliva from dogs and cats
- Seasonal allergies can be due to:
- Tree pollen, especially in the spring
- Grasses, mostly present in the summer (hay, wheat, corn)
- Herbaceous plants, starting at the end of summer and in fall (grass, ragweed)
Allergens enter the bloodstream through the skin, nasal passages and mouth, where they cause the immune system to react. To defend itself, the body releases various chemicals, such as histamines and leukotrienes, the main triggers of allergy symptoms.
Symptoms of moderate allergic rhinitis
Cold and allergy symptoms are quite similar, but unlike the common cold, allergies are not due to viruses. Most people with allergic rhinitis will experience:
- An itchy nose and eyes
- Runny nose
- Fits of sneezing
- Nasal congestion in varying degrees
- Red eyes
- Tearing of the eyes
Diagnosing allergic rhinitis
If you are familiar with these symptoms and think you may be allergic to a particular substance, note the time and place when your symptoms are at their peak. This information will help to draw up a short list of possible culprits. Allergy testing done by an allergist can pinpoint the precise source of your allergy symptoms.
Treating allergic rhinitis
To prevent allergy symptoms, try to avoid contact with your allergens.
Tips on reducing allergy symptoms
- Remove dust-collecting furniture (stuffed chairs, carpets, etc.)
- Use mattress covers
- Every week, launder sheets, pillow cases and bedspreads in hot water
- Wash floors often
- Keep the ambient humidity level low
- Install a high-efficiency air filter
Pollen, Grasses and Herbaceous Plants
- Keep doors and windows closed
- Do not mow the lawn or go to places where your allergen can be found (parks, wooded areas)
- Do not dry your clothes on the clothesline
- Wear sunglasses during outdoor activities
Medication for allergic rhinitis
Antihistamines: Oral antihistamines act on the entire body and reduce allergy symptoms as a whole, whether they are associated with seasonal or perennial allergic rhinitis. For best results, be sure to take antihistamines every day during the entire allergy period. They help ease sneezing, runny nose, tearing, prickly eyes and itching.
Decongestants: They relieve nasal congestion. Often used in combination with decongestant-free antihistamines, they are available as a syrup, tablets or nasal spray.