Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is common in both children and adults, and is associated with a decreased quality of life.
Allergic rhinitis is cause by a reaction of the nose to typical allergens such as house dust mite, pollens, grasses, moulds (fungi) and animal furs. Some people’s noses react to other inhaled substances such as perfumes, cigarette smoke, temperature changes (e.g. air conditioning) and certain chemicals or medications – this is termed non allergic rhinitis, although the symptoms can be similar to allergic rhinitis.
Symptoms may be present during certain seasons (seasonal rhinitis e.g. in spring) or all year round (perennial rhinitis). These include blocked nose, runny nose, sneezing, post nasal drip and watery or itchy eyes. Patients with other allergic conditions e.g. eczema, asthma and food allergies may be more prone.
A thorough history and examination with a small nasendoscope (camera used to assess the inside of the nose) can usually make the diagnosis. Blood tests or skin prick tests to determine exactly what you may be allergic to may be ordered. Some patients may benefit from X-rays or CT scans.
There are 4 ways to treat allergic rhinitis:
- Avoidance of the allergen – often difficult.
- Intranasal sprays/drops +/- oral antihistamines.
- Surgery – turbinate reduction surgery can be very successful if the main symptom is a blocked nose. Children with either a blocked nose or persistently runny nose may benefit from adenoidectomy. Sometimes surgery can create better access for medical therapy e.g. sprays which can then work more effectively.
- Immunotherapy to desensitise the nose may be employed in certain patients with specific allergies.
Dr Levin will be able to make the diagnosis and recommend one or more of the above treatments for you, depending on your main symptoms and what you may be allergic to.