Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal membranes most commonly characterized by nasal itching, nasal congestion, and rhinorrhea (runny nose). Often referred to as hay fever, allergic rhinitis symptoms develop when you breathe in allergen particles in which you are allergic—such as dander, dust, or pollen—in the air. An estimated 7.8 percent of people in the U.S. over 18 years old have hay fever, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. If you suffer from these allergies, learn ways to pinpoint and prevent allergic rhinitis.
1. Know Your Trigger
Over time, most people are able to determine what type of allergens set off their symptoms. It could be grass or tree pollen in the spring, or mold or ragweed in the fall. Keep a diary of when and what allergy symptoms occur so that you're better able to determine the source. If you need help, ask your doctor to help diagnose your allergy.
2. Avoid Certain Foods
Did you know that avoiding certain foods during allergy season could help prevent an allergic reaction to grass pollen? Grass pollen is known to cross react with various allergenic proteins found in foods such as oranges, melons, kiwis, cherries, wheat and tomatoes. If you are allergic to grass pollen and eat these foods during pollen season, you could experience oral allergy symptoms, such as swelling and itching of the mouth.
3. Check Pollen Counts
Pay close attention to pollen counts in your area before going out. Pollen counts are generally provided in local weather forecasts for people affected by these common allergies. Pollen counts may be described as "very high," "high," "moderate," "low," or "absent." If the pollen count is high, consider staying indoors to avoid symptoms.
4. Keep Pollen Outdoors
If you suffer from allergic rhinitis, keep your doors and windows in your home and vehicle closed, especially when pollen counts are high. If you use an air conditioner to cool your home, set it to recirculate the air in your house instead of drawing in the pollen-rich air from outdoors.
5. Take Frequent Showers
People with moderate to severe allergies should shower frequently if they spend time outdoors. When you go outside, allergy particles can cling to your hair and skin which can lead to allergy attacks. It's important to wash your body and hair after spending time outdoors and before going to bed.
6. Use Saline Sprays
Over-the-counter saline sprays or rinses can help prevent common nasal symptoms that accompany allergic rhinitis. These products work by removing allergens from the lining of the nose. It's vital to use saline sprays or rinses when symptoms are at their earliest stages as this is when the treatments are most effective.
Other ways to prevent allergic rhinitis:
- Install a high-efficiency air filter, or HEPA filter
- Don't hang laundry outside, as pollen can stick to fabrics
- Remove clothing when entering your home after being outside
- Avoid smoke and other irritants that can contribute to allergies
- Remove houseplants as these are a common source of mold
- Apply dust mite covers over mattresses
- Delegate outside chores, such as lawn mowing and weed pulling
- Wear a dust mask when doing outside chores
- Start taking allergy medications before your symptoms begin
- Take an antihistamine if your symptoms include sneezing and runny nose
- Follow regular maintenance schedules to keep your HVAC symptoms clean
- Keep air indoors dry by using a dehumidifier
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can range from very mild to debilitatingly severe. Certain risk factors can also increase your likelihood of experiencing allergy symptoms, such as having a family history of allergies, being exposed to secondhand smoke, or having other types of allergies like eczema or food allergies. However, many people are able to manage or prevent allergic rhinitis symptoms by steering clear of allergy triggers and following a treatment plan recommended by their doctors.