HAY FEVER/SEASONAL ALLERGIC RHINITIS
WHAT IS SEASONAL ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
Allergic rhinitis occurs when your immune system recognizes a harmless substance as foreign. This substance is called an “allergen.” Your immune system creates allergic antibodies called IgE. This interacts with allergic cells, releasing histamine and other “mediators” which cause your symptoms.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is caused by pollen released by trees, grasses, and weeds. Each plant has a typical pollinating season:
- trees: January to April
- grass: April into June
- weeds: September into October
Pollen counts measure the amount of this airborne pollen. Since pollen can travel hundreds of miles, cutting trees or removing weeds in your yard has little effect.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF SEASONAL ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
- itchy stuffy runny nose
- itchy watery eyes
- asthma attacks at times
HOW DO YOU DIAGNOSE SEASONAL ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
We take a history and perform an examination. We then skin test you to seasonal allergies. We sometimes perform a simple test called a “nasal smear” to look for allergic, viral or bacterial cells in your nose. This will help determine if your symptoms could be from allergies, common colds, or sinus infections. Rarely, we order blood tests.
HOW DO YOU TREAT SEASONAL ALLERGIC RHINITIS?
1. Avoid triggers by limiting outdoor time when pollen counts are high. Remain indoors, keep windows closed and run air conditioning.
2. Medications such as antihistamines can be used daily or as needed. Nasal steroids are more effective, but must be used daily for maximal effectiveness.
3. Allergy shots referred to as “ immunotherapy” are the most effective treatment. They are time consuming but almost always control symptoms and often cure allergies. Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is a more recent development but is minimally effective compared with traditional allergy shots.