By BitMED Provider: Traci French MD
Coughing, sneezing and runny nose are often signs that spring is upon us. Allergic rhinitis is a condition affecting between 10% and 30% of the population according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itchy, swollen red eyes, itchy skin rashes, nasal congestion as well as dry cough, sneezing, clear runny nose and wheezing or snoring at times. Another name for allergic rhinitis is hay fever, which explains the fatigue and low grade temperature elevation which sometimes accompanies this problem. These symptoms occur when your body mounts an inflammatory response to these exposures by releasing a chemical called histamine. Both kids and adults are affected by allergy symptoms, but kids often have more noticeable symptoms and have more difficulty tolerating prescription allergy medications. Common triggers for allergic rhinitis include dust, mold, pollen and pet dander.
If you have mild symptoms, try some of the following remedies:
- Many allergy sufferers swear by a daily dose of local honey or bee pollen to relieve symptoms, but avoid bee pollen if you have asthma or severe symptoms until you see your doctor.
- Nasal saline spray can relieve congestion and nasal drainage with minimal side effects. You can make your own by mixing 1 teaspoon salt in 1 cup distilled or sterile water with a pinch of baking soda added. Mix a fresh batch each time you use the saline wash in order to decrease the risk of bacterial infections. Neti pot use is now controversial due to severe infections associated with improper use but is safe and effective when used according to label directions.
- Peppermint, eucalyptus and basil oil have been noted to decrease inflammation associated with allergic rhinitis. Try adding one or a mix of these oils in your shower or use in a diffuser. Do not apply these oils to your skin or take internally without consulting your physician.
- Peppermint and nettle tea are noted to decrease histamine production and are safe for both children and adults but consult your pediatrician before using in small children. Avoid use of these remedies in the first trimester of pregnancy due to possible stimulating effects on the uterus without first discussing the issue with your provider.
Diagnosis and Treatment
See your medical provider if you notice symptoms lasting more than a few days, headache, fever, ear pain, dizziness, nausea, cough producing green or yellow phlegm, or green or yellow nasal drainage. Serious symptoms warranting immediate attention include shortness of breath, swelling in your face or neck, full-body rash, wheezing or blurred vision. Your provider will evaluate your symptoms and prescribe a treatment regimen based on your personal history. Sometimes you can use your medications on an as needed basis but daily treatment may be needed for severe allergy sufferers. Follow your provider’s instructions in order to ensure the best outcome.
There are many suggestions regarding allergy prevention. Dietary changes backed by scientific evidence include increasing probiotic intake and adding omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. This is accomplished by eating more fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut as well as increasing your intake of fatty fish such as salmon or taking supplements. Decreasing your exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke and wearing a dust mask while mowing the lawn or working in dusty environments will make a big difference in your symptoms. Wipe down your pets after they have been outside. Switching to HEPA filters in your AC system and vacuuming frequently are simple and effective methods for reducing allergen exposure. Allergies are frustrating but with a few changes in your routine, you will be able to get out and enjoy the outdoors again.
Citation: Allergy Statistics-http://www.aaaai.org/about-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics
Gui Yang, Zhi-Qiang Liu and Ping-Chang Ying. N Am J Med Sci 2013 Aug; 5(8): 465-468. Treatment of Allergic Rhinitis with Probiotics: An Alternative Approach. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784923/