Allergic Rhinitis (hayfever)
Allergic Rhinitis (hayfever) is one of the most common allergic conditions, affecting 1 in 5 people in Australia. It is caused by the body’s immune system reacting to common environmental substances such as pollen, house dust mite, moulds and animal danders. Common symptoms include runny nose, rubbing of the nose, itchy nose, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and blocked nose and snoring at night.
Many people with asthma also have allergic rhinitis. When allergic rhinitis is well controlled, asthma symptoms are easier to control as well. When symptoms are longterm, allergic rhinitis may be associated with complications such as snoring, chronic tiredness, ear and sinus infections.
Symptoms may be regarded as mild when there is no disturbance in sleep, leisure, school or work activities and moderate/severe when there is disturbance to sleep, leisure, school or work activities.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis refers to symptoms triggered in a particular season usually caused by exposure to pollen from grass, weed or trees, or persistent rhinitis, present all year round and caused by allergies to house dust mites, moulds or animals.
If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, particularly if it is persistent, or affects your day-to-day function, discuss treatment options with your general practitioner. A referral to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist may be required for further assessment including allergy testing.
A number of effective treatments are available. Non-drowsy antihistamines are available over the counter and can be useful for mild, intermittent symptoms but more persistent symptoms require a more preventative approach. If the triggers have been identified, steps may be taken to minimise exposure; most people with regular symptoms will be effectively managed using one of the available nasal steroid sprays. There are several on the market; your doctor will discuss which one is best for you and will instruct you regarding how to use it.
If symptoms are very persistent or difficult to control your GP will refer you to an allergy specialist for consideration of more longterm therapy known as Immunotherapy. This is a proven treatment approach providing long-term relief for many people suffering from allergic rhinitis. It is available as injections or as a vaccine to be placed in the mouth.
Allergy specialists often have long waiting lists. Don’t let this be a deterrent to your GP referring you to one if your symptoms are persistent or difficult to control.
For more helpful information on Allergic Rhinitis go to www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever-and-sinusitis
Prepared by Prof CH Katelaris Oct 2012
Content updated October 2012