Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is considered as one of the prevalent chronic diseases globally. It is one of the causes for chronic nasal and sinus issues. Young adults and children are the high-risk groups affected by the condition, but many older adults and elderly can also experience symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis involves irritation and inflammation of the nasal passages due to seasonal or year-round allergens. The symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, itchiness of the nose, nasal congestion and postnasal drip. Almost half of those who have allergic rhinitis have a component of non-allergic rhinitis to the symptoms they experience.
Why am I at risk for hay fever symptoms?
Those who are at risk for allergic rhinitis include individuals with a family history of atopy or atopic dermatitis, a modernized lifestyle or the mother smoked during pregnancy.
If there are pets around especially several dogs during the time of birth of a child, it seems to provide protection to the development of allergic conditions such as hay fever. This phenomenon is explained by the “hygiene hypothesis” that suggests that since we are living a clean environment, the immune system no longer needs to fight as many infections in the past. Since most of us did not grow up in farms around animals or play with dirt and was given vaccinations for protection against infection, the immune system is less stimulated from an infection-fighting mode and triggers the allergy mode. Early exposure to pets especially dogs can prevent this.
Close look on allergic rhinitis
Always bear in mind that allergic rhinitis affects millions of individuals globally which results to missed out days at work and school as well as diminished level of productivity yearly.
The effects of allergic rhinitis on the quality of life are similar to a severe case of asthma. Always bear in mind that the condition also affects other diseases. If the symptoms of hay fever are not controlled, it can lead to ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of asthma. Those who have allergic rhinitis are susceptible to illnesses since the inflammation in the nose makes them prone to the virus that triggers common cold.
How hay fever is diagnosed
A diagnosis is made based on the symptoms that are consistent with allergies, physical examination as well a positive allergy testing. It can be hard to indicate the difference between common cold and allergies in some individuals. The following are indications of allergies:
- Presence of other atopic conditions
- Symptoms linked with a season or potential trigger
- Family history of allergic diseases
- Improvement of the symptoms after using medications
- Presence of itchiness is indicative of allergies
The doctor will perform a physical exam to check for any indications of allergies. The exam involves assessing the ears, nose and mouth. The presence of dark circles under the eyes (allergic shiners) is due to nasal congestion. If there is a horizontal crease on the nasal bridge due to the upward rubbing of the nose using the palm of the hand, it is called an allergic salute.
A positive allergy test is needed to properly diagnose allergic rhinitis while a negative result indicates non-allergic rhinitis. A skin test or blood test is usually performed. During skin testing, it can be carried in various ways and the most common technique used in the prick or scratch test.