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
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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 .
Avoid contact if possible .
Wash hands after contact .
Keep pets out of the bedroom, and off furniture, rugs, and other
Have your pets bathed and groomed frequently.