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Hay fever, allergic rhinitis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About hay fever, allergic rhinitis

Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is one of the most commonly encountered upper respiratory problems which results from the inflammation of the nasal tract. This inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes is triggered by an allergic reaction to an offending agent. Hay fever is a misnomer since this condition does not present with fever (high temperature) and is not related to hay.

Hay fever, allergic rhinitis: Incidence, age and sex Hay fever may be encountered in individuals of any age but its incidence is higher in children. It affects men and women equally.

Signs and symptoms of hay fever, allergic rhinitis: Diagnosis

The clinical features of hay fever include running nose, frequent sneezing and irritation in nose and throat. Some individuals may experience post-nasal dripping which induces constant cough. Other features like itching in the eyes, sore throat, blocked ears and headache may also be seen. Repeated attacks of hay fever may impair the sense of smell. The symptoms of hay fever may be either episodic or persistent.

A detailed history, together with comprehensive physical examination of the nose, the ears and the throat may help in detecting the condition. However, certain investigations may be recommended to rule out other problems which mimic hay fever.

Causes and prevention of hay fever, allergic rhinitis

Hay fever is an allergic phenomenon affecting the nasal passages, which may trigger an inflammatory response, as a result of which a chemical substance called histamine gets released. Histamine causes increased congestion and swelling of the mucous membrane lining the nose and nasal passages. Genetic susceptibility plays an important role in the causation of hay fever. Structural abnormality like deviated nasal septum may also predispose individuals to hay fever. Some allergic irritants that may trigger the inflammation of nasal passages include plant pollens, house dust, moulds and sudden changes in temperatures. In fact, episodes of hay fever are more common in spring and fall. Outdoor pollution like cigarette smoke, industrial and vehicular smoke may also set off an allergic response.

Hay fever, allergic rhinitis: Complications

Repeated episodes of hay fever may cause intense distress and also affects sleep and concentration, resulting in poor performance. Furthermore, ear infections, inflammation of the sinuses and persistent headache may also occur.

Hay fever, allergic rhinitis: Treatment

Unfortunately there is no effective treatment for hay fever. Symptomatic relief is the key to treatment. Avoid exposure to allergic agents. Nasal saline wash can be used to clear nasal congestion and irritation. Other medications which may be prescribed are oral preparations of nasal decongestant and anti-allergic agents. Steroidal nasal sprays are another option when above measures fail. Another treatment modality called immunotherapy may be considered when satisfactory response to medical treatment is not observed. It may only be considered if the identification of offending agent is possible. The course of disease is variable and differs from person to person. It can be episodic, persistent, or wax or wane with time.