Saturday, April 21, 2007

Understanding Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis ranks high on the list of common illnesses. Simply defined, rhinitis is the body's way of responding to inflammation of the nasal passages or sinuses. Inflammation can occur as a result of exposure to allergens as is the case with allergic rhinitis or may be the result of a bacterial or viral infection. Whatever the cause, symptoms like repetitive sneezing, post nasal drip, sinus congestion or itching are those that plague those who suffer from rhinitis.

Rhinitis affects people of all ages, though most people develop the condition in the first few decades of life. People who have a family history of asthma or allergies are far more likely to have rhinitis than those without.

People with allergic rhinitis may notice that their symptoms worsen during certain times of the year. This is commonly referred to as hay fever. There are many allergens that can trigger an episode of allergic rhinitis. Where a person lives and the local weather and climate may also be a contributing factor.

In order to determine the best method for coping with seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis, a person should know what exactly his or her triggers are. This can be done by a simple test called a scratch test, which is administered in the doctor's office. To do this, a grid is drawn on the patient's back. Different allergen serums are then applied to the grid in an orderly manner, and the skin is lightly pricked so that the serum gets just under the surface of the skin. The doctor watched carefully for any reaction such as redness, bumps, hives or swelling. This test can check for allergies to a variety of plant types, molds, animal dander, and even some foods.

Coping with allergic rhinitis may be as simple as the doctor providing a prescription. Certain over-the-counter medications have also been approved for the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Sinus flushes and rinses, particularly those containing saline, are effective in stimulating the sinus passages to produce additional mucus that will flow out of the nose taking the allergen with it. Prescription nasal sprays are usually formulated with an anti-inflammatory component which helps shrink the inflamed tissue, unblocking the sinuses.

Avoiding the allergens by modifying the lifestyle is another way to cope. For example, if an allergy test reveals that a person is allergic to dyes and perfumes, that person should try to rid their home of any product containing such things.

Infection rhinitis, the type that is caused by a bacteria or virus, can also be remedied with prescription medications or over-the-counter remedies. Antibiotics in nasal sprays are only effective against bacteria. If a sinus infection resulting in rhinitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not help. However, inhaling steam or rinsing using nasal decongestants may provide some relief. A warm compress or washcloth held in place over the eyes and nose will stimulate the blood vessels to open up and may relieve the headache associated with the pain and pressure of sinus congestion.

Coping with non-allergic rhinitis is usually more difficult, as there are a myriad of environmental triggers that are not easily avoided. Automobile exhaust, ground level ozone, smoke and air pollution are common causes of sinus inflammation. Indoor air pollution can be easily remedied by purchasing a HEPA filter system. Some medications do treat environmental triggers, but not many. In severe cases a person may need to move to a different region where there are fewer environmental triggers.

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