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House Calls: Allergic Rhinitis

Sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion and cough can all be signs of allergic rhinitis or hay fever. Allergic rhinitis is when the body’s immune system overreacts to the particles that we breathe in. These particles are called allergens, which means they can cause an allergic reaction.

You may have symptoms throughout the year, or just at certain times. You may also get secondary infections from allergic rhinitis such as sinusitis or ear infections. Over time, allergens may not affect you as much as they did in past.

In most cases when you have allergic rhinitis you may sneeze again and again, especially when you wake up in morning. You have a runny nose or postnasal drip. The drainage from allergic rhinitis is usually clear, however may get thick and colored if you develop a sinus infection. Your eyes are watery and itchy. Your ears, nose and throat are itchy.

Pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds cause allergic rhinitis. Things in the workplace such as dust and mold can also cause allergic rhinitis.

If you are unsure whether you have allergic rhinitis or something else you may go see your doctor. Your doctor will usually ask you a series of questions about your symptoms and examine you. If you have severe symptoms you may need to be allergy tested. To be allergy tested, a doctor will do skin testing on you. The tests will involve putting a small amount of allergen under your skin to see if you react to it. Depending on the response, this will determine if you are allergic to that allergen.

There is no cure for allergic rhinitis. One of the best things to do is to avoid what causes the problems. Sometimes that is impossible. You may take over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines. Before taking over-the-counter medicines you may consult your physician to see if they are right for you and won’t interfere with any other medicines you are taking. Medicines such as Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra may help. Medicines with decongestants need to be approved by your physician because they can elevate blood pressure and heart rate. In more severe cases allergy injections may be warranted.

You need to consult your physician when symptoms last for more than a week. If your drainage becomes thick and colored, you develop shortness of breath and wheezing, or if you begin having facial pressure, sore throat, and fever you need to see your primary care physician. These can all be signs of secondary infections from allergic rhinitis that may need to be treated with an antibiotic.

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