Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a very common medical problem affecting more than 15 percent of adults and children - an estimated 40 million to 50 million people. Symptoms include sneezing, runny and itchy nose, nasal congestion, post nasal drip and nasal blockage. It is also often associated with itching of the eyes.
Seasonal Rhinitis is usually caused by allergic sensitivity to pollens from trees, grasses or weeds, or to airborne mold spores. The symptoms occur mainly in spring, summer and/or early fall. Perennial Rhinitis is caused by sensitivity to house dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches and/or mold spores. The symptoms are year-round. Generally food allergies do not cause allergic rhinitis. Some people may experience both types of rhinitis, with perennial symptoms getting worse during specific pollen seasons. There are also non-allergic causes for rhinitis. Some known complications include ear infections, sinusitis, recurrent sore throats, cough, headache, altered sleep patterns, fatigue, irritability and poor school performance. Occasionally, children may develop orthodontic problems.
Allergists seldom recommend moving to another locale as a cure for allergies. A person may escape one allergy only to develop sensitivity to other allergens in the new location. Since moving can have a disrupting effect on a family financially and emotionally, relocation should be considered only in an extreme situation and only after consultation with an allergist.
The most common condition causing rhinitis is the common cold, an example of infectious rhinitis. Colds usually begin with a sensation of congestion, rapidly followed by a runny nose and sneezing. Over the next few days, the congestion becomes worse, the nasal mucus may become colored, and there may be a slight fever and cough. Cold symptoms go away within a couple of weeks although a cough may sometimes persist. Cold symptoms that last longer may be due to other causes, such as non-infectious rhinitis or sinusitis.
An allergy test, including skin testing, or a blood test is recommended for diagnosing and differentiating between allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. Skin testing is the easiest, most sensitive and generally least expensive way of making the diagnosis. Another advantage is that results are available immediately. Once allergic rhinitis is diagnosed, treatment options include avoidance, medication and immunotherapy (allergy shots).
Not all symptoms in the nasal passage are caused by allergy or infection. Similar symptoms can be caused by mechanical blockage, use of certain medications, irritants, temperature changes or other physical factors.
Drug induced nasal congestion can be caused by birth control pills and other female hormone preparations, certain blood pressure medications, and the prolonged use of decongestant nasal sprays. Non-allergic Rhinitis can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism, or can occur during pregnancy.