Allergic rhinitis refers to a group of symptoms—such as a runny or itchy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing—that result from inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes. A common, but inaccurate, name for this condition is hay fever. It is estimated that 40-50 million people in the US develop allergic rhinitis during their lifetime. Allergic rhinitis precedes the onset of asthma in over half of cases. Seeing a doctor as early as possible is advised.
Mucous membranes in the nose may become inflamed when certain airborne allergens—such as dust, pollen, mold, or animal dander—are inhaled. For those who are sensitive, these allergens stimulate an excessive immune reaction.
The body makes an immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody specific to that allergen and binds to mast cells that make chemicals, like histamine. This is called “sensitization.” The next time your body is exposed to the allergen, the antibody recognizes it, and the histamine is released from the mast cell. The histamine causes dilation of nasal blood vessels and inflammation of the mucous membranes, which result in common allergy symptoms.
There are 2 types of allergic rhinitis:
In general, allergic rhinitis is a relatively mild condition that may cause discomfort, but is seldom serious. Some complications associated with allergic rhinitis include:
Allergic rhinitis. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website. Available at:http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116217/Allergic-rhinitis. Updated July 22, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2017 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.