Although the spring brought fresh air before this long, cold winter, not every breath proved welcoming.
With allergic rhinitis, the pollen in the air made for a less-than-pleasant season paired with not only beautiful, blossoming flowers, but also sneezing, headaches, and coughing.
Also called hay fever, Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic can help diagnose and treat these unwanted symptoms that come round each year.
At first just a runny, stuff or itchy nose, allergic rhinitis can turn quickly into a threat for your health when your body thinks that a normal substance is a disease triggering your immune system that might lead to one or all of the following symptoms:
- watery or itchy eyes
- sore throat
- itchy or dry skin
- skin reaction or Hives
Spring and Autumn bring pollen, but you should not always blame trees and weeds for your symptoms. You must also account for mold, pet dander, and dust mite droppings that can trigger your nasal symptoms.
If you suspect you have allergic rhinitis, you can contact your local Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic, located in Little Rock and Conway to schedule an appointment to get tested.
These physical exams include a detailed verbal questionnaire about your symptoms as well as the option of undergoing a physical test.
Your doctor will perform either allergy skin testing to see what triggers your symptoms or a blood test (also called an IgE test) if skin testing cannot be performed.
Allergy testing can help differentiate between allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. on-allergic rhinitis affects about one out of three adults. Instead of being triggered by the symptoms because of the seasonal change, patients with non-allergic rhinitis will have the symptoms year round. Allergic rhinitis, on the other hand, derives from your immune system, as it has incorrectly identified a harmless substance, such as pollen, and has taken a course of action. Since the immune system then releases histamine and chemical mediators, your body will then suffer from the symptoms mentioned above.
When you get this seasonally, it is then called hay fever.
After your diagnosis
Once your doctor has diagnosed you with allergic rhinitis or non-allergic rhinitis, they will most likely assign you a plan of treatment. Many treatments improve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, and there is a reason why you should not ignore them.
When left untreated, these symptoms can lead to a whole number of issues including these complications:
- sleep disturbances
- difficulty paying attention
These symptoms, especially when ignored, can become lifelong, chronic complications. Physically, the chronic symptoms can disturb your airways and trigger acute or chronic sinusitis. Symptoms include:
- otitis media/ear infection
- upper respiratory tract infection
- dental problems
- eustachian tube dysfunction
- higher risk in developing asthma (in children)
- asthma flares if you already a history of asthma
Fortunately, treatment can be a literal breath of fresh air.
Types of treatment
Depending on your age, your symptoms, and your medical history (including the fact if you have asthma or not), your doctor will most likely prescribe you one of the following types of treatment:
OTC drugs: Also known as over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants, this is the treatment that is called for if your symptoms are relatively mild.
Prescription medications: If your symptoms get more severe, a prescription medication may be needed at the discretion of your doctor.
Immunotherapy: Two types of immunotherapy are available: allergy shots and sublingual (under the tongue) tablets.
- Allergy shots: If your asthma is triggered by an allergy, you should consider allergy shots, which are very effective in relieving allergy symptoms and in some cases can actually cure your allergy. The treatment, which can take several years, builds up immunity to your offending allergens (pollens, dust mite, pets, mold). It works by injecting small amounts of the allergen in gradually increasing amounts over time. As the shots help the body build up a tolerance to the effects of the allergen, they eventually reduce and can even eliminate your allergy symptoms.
- Sublingual tablets: This type of immunotherapy was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014. Starting several months before allergy season begins, patients dissolve a tablet under the tongue daily. Treatment can continue for as long as three years. These medications should not be used in patients with severe or uncontrolled asthma. Only a few allergens (certain grass and ragweed pollens) can be treated now with this method, but it is a promising therapy for the future.
Nasal corticosteroid sprays: Another type of nasal spray which is used most effectively when used continuously over a long period of time.
Decongestants: Just like other allergy medications, a decongestant (also can be a nasal spray—not recommended for long term use*) will help unblock those nasal passageways.
Other medicine: Some alternative medication that your doctor might prescribe you will be leukotriene inhibitors that block a chemical normally responsible for triggering symptoms.
Another way to deal with allergic rhinitis would be to avoid your triggers. During pollen season, avoid going outdoors as much as possible. However, if you have to go outside, wear glasses, sunglasses, a pollen mask (when doing yard work), and wash your hands immediately afterward. Also, if you can avoid it, do not hang clothes out to dry during this season, and try not to rub your eyes.
You should also avoid indoor triggers. Do not use window fans that blow pollen and mold in the house. Consider cleaning your floors with a wet rag, mop, or wet Swiffer instead of a broom or dry dusting. Moreover, if pet dander is your trigger, then wash your hands and clothes immediately after coming in contact with a pet. (If you have a pet, try to keep it out of the bedroom and clean often.)
When your itchy nose comes around, treatment options available for allergic rhinitis can be quite difficult to select. Little Rock allergy clinic at Arkansas Allergy and Asthma can help you determine which treatment will control your symptoms.