Allergic rhinitis triggered by exposure to allergens can affect the eyes, nose, and throat. Symptoms generally arise within a few minutes of a person coming into contact with allergens, and can include sneezing, itchy nose, runny nose, and nasal congestion – these usually occur when the mucous membranes are irritated, which causes the blood vessels to expand. Some patients also experience itchy, red, or watery eyes, or an itchy throat that leads to coughing.
In some cases, allergic rhinitis is seasonal, and may only occur in the spring, when pollen counts are higher, or when the weather changes. In other cases, the condition is perennial and is triggered by allergens such as dust, mold, or animal hair.
Environment: dust, pollen, mold, animal hair or dander, polluted air, sudden change in temperature or humidity
Chemical: cosmetics, perfumes, personal care products, paint, camphor, insecticides
Food: seafood, alcoholic beverages, spicy food
If the condition interferes with a patient’s sleep or rest, a doctor may prescribe medication, such as:
Salt water nasal spray: if symptoms are mild, patients may use salt water or a nasal spray to rinse out the inside of the nose and relieve symptoms.
Antihistamines: when the body comes in contact with an allergen, the immune system may release histamines, which can cause the nose to become itchy and blood vessels to expand. Antihistamines are helpful in alleviating these types of symptoms.
Vasoconstrictors: this type of medication helps to temporarily narrow the blood vessels to relieve nasal congestion. It should not be taken for more than one week, as it may cause the nasal congestion to worsen after that.
Corticosteroid nasal spray: this helps reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms but must be prescribed by a doctor. Overuse or long-term use may cause the mucous membrane to thin and increase likeliness of nosebleeds.
The most direct way to relieve allergic rhinitis is to avoid allergens as much as possible. We recommend:
Keeping your home clean: wash bedding regularly to reduce exposure to dust mites. Keep the kitchen and bathrooms dry to prevent mold, and clean air conditioners and heaters regularly as they tend to accumulate dust. An air purifier is also helpful for cleaning the air.
Avoiding contact with pollen: in the spring, avoid going to the park as the pollen count may be high, especially during the cotton tree fruiting season, when cotton-like fibers flutter through the air in Hong Kong.
Avoiding chemicals: if allergic rhinitis is triggered by chemicals, such as perfumes, personal care products, mothballs, camphor, mosquito repellent, insecticides, etc., pay attention to the ingredients of these products when purchasing.