Allergic rhinitis is inflammation in the nose after contact with allergens. An allergen is anything that causes an abnormal response of the immune system. There are 2 main types:
An allergic reaction is an overreaction of the immune system. A chain of events is started when the allergen makes contact with the inside of the nose. Immune cells in the nose release a chemical called histamine. Histamine causes itchiness and swelling. It also increases the amount of mucus in the nose.
The risk of allergic rhinitis is higher in those with:
Allergic rhinitis can cause:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. Allergic rhinitis may be suspected based on symptoms. Tests may be done to see what allergens are causing problems. The time of year and location may also help to guess the allergen. Tests may include:
Avoiding the allergens is the best way to treat allergies. Specific steps will depend on the type of allergen, for example:
Reducing dust mite allergens:
Reducing mold contact:
Reducing animal allergens:
Use news reports or online resources to track pollen levels in you area. If the allergen level is high:
General steps that may reduce contact with allergen:
It is not always possible to avoid all allergens. Other treatments may help reduce the body's reaction to the allergen:
Medicine can help to decrease the reaction of the immune system. This will lead to fewer and less severe symptoms. It may be given alone or in combination. Options include:
Allergy medicine is most effective when taken before contact with the allergen. It will also need to be taken as long as the allergen is present.
Other medicine that may be added include:
Decongestants may be recommended for severe congestion. Overuse of nasal decongestant sprays can actually make symptoms worse.
Immunotherapy uses injections or pills to slowly introduce an allergen to the body. The goal is to make your body less sensitive to those allergens. This may stop allergic rhinitis for some, in others it may help to decrease symptoms. The therapy is delivered in small amounts over weeks, months, or even years. It is only available for specific allergens but more may become available after testing.
This therapy is most often used for those who don't respond well to medicine.
There are no steps to prevent the chance of having allergies.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Allergy Asthma Information Association
Allergic rhinitis. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis. Accessed February 10, 2021.
Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116217/Allergic-rhinitis. Accessed February 10, 2021.
Durham SR, Yang WH, et al. Sublingual immunotherapy with once-daily grass allergen tablets: a randomized controlled trial in seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2006;117(4):802-809.
Managing indoor allergen culprits. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology website. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/Aaaai/media/MediaLibrary/PDF%20Documents/Libraries/EL-indoor-allergies-managing-patient.pdf. Accessed February 10, 2021.
Rhinitis (hay fever). American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/rhinitis. Accessed February 10, 2021.
Wheatley L, Togias A. Clinical practice: allergic rhinitis. N Engl J Med. 2015;372(5):456-463.
8/27/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116217/Allergic-rhinitis: Kim JM, Lin SY, et al. Allergen-specific immunotherapy for pediatric asthma and rhinoconjunctivitis: a systematic review. Pediatrics. 2013;131(6):1155-1167.
Last reviewed February 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated:2/11/2021