While there are several types of rhinitis, approximately 50 to 70 percent of Americans suffer from allergy-induced rhinitis.  Allergic rhinitis usually affects patients with a genetic predisposition to become sensitized to airborne substances such as ragweed, tree or grass pollens, dust mites, or animal dander.  Usually, allergic rhinitis emerges at a young age and in patients with a strong family history of atopy, a term used to describe a group of patients who have a personal or family history of one or more of the following conditions: allergic rhinitis, hay fever, asthma, or eczema.

While allergic rhinitis can be purely seasonal, symptoms can also occur year round, depending on the offending allergens.  Patients who are allergic to grasses, trees, and ragweed frequently have seasonal symptoms.  However, people who are allergic to dust, mold, or animal dander, commonly experience perennial symptoms.

In order to identify offending allergens, an allergist must first review the patient’s history and perform a physical examination.  Then, skin testing will be performed by applying small amounts of allergens on the skin and pricking it.  Within fifteen minutes, results from skin testing are apparent and show a reaction by producing a “weal,” or round red raised area, at the particular allergen’s site.

Patients with allergic rhinitis are initially treated with antihistamines and a nasal corticosteroid spray, instructed in the principles of allergen avoidance, and explained their option of immunotherapy (allergy injections) in the event that a combination of oral, intranasal, or inhalant medication alone does not control their symptoms alone.

 

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