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allergic rhinitis – hay fever

allergic rhinitis more commonly referred to as hay fever, is an inflammation of the nasal passages caused by allergic reaction to airborne substances. it is the most common allergic condition and one of the most common of all minor afflictions. it affects between 10-20% of all people in the united states, and is responsible for 2.5% of all doctor visits. there are two types of allergic rhinitis: seasonal and perennial.

seasonal allergic rhinitis or hay fever occurs in the spring, summer, and early fall, when airborne plant pollens are at their highest levels. in fact, the term hay fever is really a misnomer, since allergy to grass pollen is only one cause of symptoms for most people.
perennial allergic rhinitis or hay fever occurs all year and is usually caused by home or workplace airborne pollutants.
both types of allergies can develop at any age, although onset in childhood through early adulthood is most common. although allergy to a particular substance is not inherited, increased allergic sensitivity may "run in the family." while allergies can improve on their own over time, they can also become worse over time.

seasonal hay fever is most commonly caused by grass and tree pollens, since their pollen is produced in large amounts and is dispersed by the wind. showy flowers, like roses or lilacs, that attract insects produce a sticky pollen which is less likely to become airborne. different plants release their pollen at different times of the year, so seasonal hay fever sufferers may be most affected in spring, summer, or fall, depending on which plants provoke a response. the amount of pollen in the air is reflected in the pollen count, often broadcast on the daily news during allergy season. pollen counts tend to be lower after a good rain that washes the pollen out of the air and higher on warm, dry, windy days. a few types of weeds that tend to cause the most trouble for people are ragweed, sagebrush, lamb's-quarters, plantain, pigweed, dock/sorrel and tumbleweed.

perennial hay fever is often triggered by house dust, a complicated mixture of airborne particles, many of which are potent allergens. house dust contains some or all of the following:
house mite body parts: all houses contain large numbers of microscopic insects called house mites. these harmless insects feed on fibers, fur, and skin shed by the house's larger occupants. their tiny body parts easily become airborne. animal dander: animals constantly shed fur, skin flakes, and dried saliva. carried in the air, or transferred from pet to owner by direct contact, dander can cause allergy in many sensitive people.
mold spores: molds live in damp spots throughout the house, including basements, bathrooms, air ducts, air conditioners, refrigerator drains, damp windowsills, mattresses, and stuffed furniture. mildew and other molds release airborne spores which circulate throughout the house.
other potential causes of perennial allergic rhinitis can include cigarette smoke, perfume, cosmetics, cleansers, copier chemicals, industrial chemicals, construction material gases.

treatment
avoidance of the allergens is the best treatment, but this is often not possible. when it is not possible to avoid one or more allergens, then medical treatment is recommended in the form of  antihistamines, decongestants, topical corticosteriods, mast cell stabilizer and  possibly immunotherapy.

alternative treatment
alternative treatments for allergic rhinitis often focus on modulation of the body's immune response, and frequently center around diet and lifestyle adjustments. chinese herbal medicine can help rebalance a person's system, as can both acute and constitutional homeopathic treatment. vitamin c in substantial amounts can help stabilize the mucous membrane response. for symptom relief, western herbal remedies including eyebright (euphrasia officinalis ) and nettle (urtica dioica ) may be helpful. bee pollen may also be effective in alleviating or eliminating ar symptoms.

prevention
reducing exposure to pollen may improve symptoms of seasonal hay fever. such steps could involve staying indoors with the windows closed during the morning hours, when pollen levels are highest . keeping the car windows up while driving .using a surgical face mask when spending time outside .avoiding uncut fields of grass. learning which trees are producing pollen in which seasons, and avoid forests at the height of pollen season. washing clothes and hair after being outside . cleaning air conditioner filters in the home regularly. using electrostatic filters for central air conditioning .moving to a region with lower pollen levels is rarely effective, since new allergies often develop

preventing perennial allergic rhinitis or hay fever requires identification of the responsible allergens.
mold spores:
keep the house dry through ventilation and use of dehumidifiers use a disinfectant such as dilute bleach to clean surfaces such as bathroom floors and walls .
have ducts cleaned and disinfected .
clean and disinfect air conditioners and coolers.
throw out moldy or mildewed books, shoes, pillows, or furniture

house dust:
vacuum frequently, and change the bag regularly. use a bag with small pores to catch extra-fine particles
clean floors and walls with a damp mop.
install electrostatic filters in heating and cooling ducts, and change all filters regularly .

animal dander:
avoid contact if possible .
wash hands after contact .
vacuum frequently.
keep pets out of the bedroom, and off furniture, rugs, and other dander-catching surfaces.
have your pets bathed and groomed frequently.
 


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