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Allergic Rhinitis: All You Need to Know

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Jul 20, 2020

Allergic Rhinitis: All You Need to Know

Nothing is more irritating than having watery eyes and a nose that will not stop sneezing. These are symptoms associated with an allergic rhinitis attack, which mainly affects the normal functions of the nose.

Many people suffer from allergic rhinitis but mostly brush it off as a nuisance. In fact, 10% to 30% of the world’s population suffers from allergic rhinitis. If you find yourself constantly dealing with symptoms reminiscent of a cold like a runny nose, sneezing, or itchiness then you may have allergic rhinitis.

Understanding the causes of an allergic rhinitis attack can be the first step to finally managing your symptoms.

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There are two types of rhinitis, namely allergic rhinitis, and nonallergic rhinitis.

Allergic Rhinitis: An allergic rhinitis attack happens when the immune system identifies harmless substances as intruders of the body. The body’s reaction to the intruder or “allergen” is what causes the typical symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis like a runny nose and sneezing. Allergic rhinitis has two main types, namely:

  • Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis. This type of allergic rhinitis occurs during the seasons like spring, summer, or early fall. It is usually an allergic reaction to mold or pollen.
  • Perennial Allergic Rhinitis. You might have perennial allergic rhinitis if you experience symptoms the entire year, regardless of seasons. This type of allergic rhinitis is usually brought about an allergy to pet hair, dust, mold, or cockroaches.

Nonallergic rhinitis This type of allergic rhinitis is unrelated to allergies or the immune system.

Allergic Rhinitis and Its Causes

Allergic rhinitis develops when allergens enter the body and cause the insides of the nose to become inflamed. Allergens are harmless substances that can trigger the immune system to overreact and cause an allergic reaction. Common allergens include:

  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander including fur from dogs or cats
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Insect venom
  • Some foods
  • Some medication

Common Drugs That Cause Allergic Reactions

Signs & Symptoms

Allergic rhinitis is sometimes referred to as “hay fever,” although allergic rhinitis attacks do not necessarily involve a fever. Symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the case. Common signs and symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Sneezing
  • Feeling an itch in your nose, mouth, throat, eyes, or skin
  • Coughing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Feeling pressure in the nose 
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen or watery eyes
  • Hindered sense of smell
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Postnasal drip

Some people only get these symptoms when exposed to allergens, while some experience these symptoms all the time. If you have developed allergic rhinitis, the best you can do is manage the symptoms. It is unlikely that this will completely go away.

Cold or Allergic Rhinitis?

Allergic Rhinitis symptoms can be easily mistaken for the common cold. Here are a few key differences between allergic rhinitis and a cold:

  • A common cold will cause a runny nose with thin or thick yellow discharge, usually accompanied by a low-grade fever. Allergic rhinitis will cause a runny nose with a thin and watery clear discharge.
  • A common cold will start showing symptoms a few days after exposure to the virus. In contrast, an allergic reaction (which will cause allergic rhinitis) will immediately begin to show symptoms after exposure to a particular allergen.
  • A common cold lasts for about a week, while allergic rhinitis symptoms will persist as long as there is exposure to an allergen. 

Treatment & Management

Usually, an allergic rhinitis attack can be managed at home by medication or even making sure that you avoid triggers as much as possible. However, you should consider seeing an allergist or health practitioner if you are experiencing the following problems because of allergic rhinitis:

  • You are not enjoying your day to day activities. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can pop up at any time, and their severity may keep you from doing things you enjoy or make you less productive. 
  • You are not sleeping well. Allergic rhinitis can either keep you up or cause segmented sleep, eventually causing fatigue or exhaustion.
  • Your asthma is becoming worse. People with asthma often find that having allergic rhinitis can make asthma-related symptoms worse. 
  • You develop an ear infection. Allergic rhinitis can cause ear infections, especially in children.
  • You develop sinusitis. Because the nasal passages are congested, allergic rhinitis can make your sinuses inflamed, which can eventually lead to sinusitis.

Your doctor may suggest or prescribe the following treatments for your allergic rhinitis: 

Intranasal Corticosteroids, also known as nasal sprays. They are one of the most effective treatments for symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Unlike medicines that are ingested or injected, intranasal corticosteroids rarely have any side effects.

Antihistamines. These are medications that are most commonly used to treat allergic rhinitis. These medications work by countering histamine, which is what causes allergic rhinitis reactions. Some antihistamine medications have side effects like drowsiness or dryness in the nose, mouth, and eye area.

Decongestants. These are medications made to alleviate a stuffy nose caused by allergic rhinitis. This type of medicine doesn’t treat other allergic rhinitis symptoms.

Immunotherapy. This type of treatment is usually used for those who do not respond to other treatments or experience negative side effects. Types of immunotherapy include allergy shots or sublingual tablets.

Managing Your Symptoms

When it comes to allergic rhinits, the best you can do is try to avoid allergen triggers. Here are things you can do to avoid allergic rhinitis flare-ups:

  • Keep windows closed especially when it is a high-pollen season.
  • Stay indoors as much as you can during high-pollen seasons.
  • Wear sunglasses or glasses if you are outdoors, to prevent pollen from irritating your eyes.
  • Invest in dust-proof and mite-proof bed sheets and linen. Wash these regularly.
  • Wash your hands after playtime with your pet.
  • Mop and vacuum floors often, and avoid sweeping as much as possible. Sweeping can spread dust mites into the air.

Key Takeaways

An allergic rhinitis attack occurs when the body reacts to allergens, causing a variety of symptoms mostly affecting the nose, eyes, throat, or mouth. This condition can have mild to severe symptoms that can be managed through medications or simply avoiding what you’re allergic to.

Learn more about Allergies here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Den Alibudbud · Updated Jul 20, 2020

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