What are nasal allergies? (allergic rhinitis)
Sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose: these are the classic hallmarks of nasal allergies.
Nasal allergies, also referred to as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, is a reaction to airborne particles that trigger an immunological response in the body (known as allergens). Common allergens include pollen, grass, dust, pet dander, and mold.
When the body encounters an allergen, the immune system overreacts, deploying a chemical called histamine to fight the intruder. Histamine causes the nose, sinuses and mucous membranes to swell.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis
Although about 20% of the U.S. population suffers from allergic rhinitis, experts contend that it is underdiagnosed. Allergic rhinitis is often a seasonal condition, occurring when pollen count is high or when grass and weeds are growing. However, allergic rhinitis can be a year round battle for those sensitive to pet dander or dust mites. Some common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Nasal congestion and runny nose
- Post-nasal drip (mucus in the throat)
Allergic rhinitis and sinus issues
People with allergic rhinitis are prone to other problems, particularly infections related to the ears and sinuses. Sinusitis is an infection that arises when the sinuses become blocked due to nasal swelling and blockages. When the sinuses are blocked, they cannot drain properly and, therefore, become filled with fluid. This creates a friendly environment for bacteria and other pathogens to thrive.
Sinusitis can cause tremendous pain and discomfort in the head and face, including facial tenderness and headaches. Difficulty breathing, sleeping, and fatigue are also symptoms.
Although sinusitis may resolve itself on its own, it generally requires medical treatment.
What is non-allergic rhinitis
Rhinitis literally means inflammation of the nose. When swelling of the nose is caused by circumstances or agents unrelated to allergens, it is referred to as non-allergic rhinitis. Some factors that can trigger non-allergic rhinitis include:
- Irritating environmental conditions (pollution)
- Nasal anatomy (a deviated septum)
- Overuse of nasal sprays
A diagnosis for non-allergic rhinitis tends to be more difficult because, unlike allergic rhinitis, there is no specific test. The first step is ruling out allergies and a comprehensive review of your medical history. Treatment for non-allergic rhinitis depends on its root cause.
Your rhinitis consultation with Dr. Alexis D. Furze
Dr. Alexis D. Furze of Newport Beach is a California board-certified head & neck, facial plastic surgeon and a Diplomate of the American Board of Otolaryngology. A specialist in the treatment of individuals with ear, nose, and throat disorders, Dr. Furze helps his patients find relief from nasal and sinus conditions. If you suffer from sinus problems due to allergic rhinitis or another factor, contact his office to schedule an evaluation.