Allergic rhinitis refers to a group of symptoms—such as a runny or itchy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing—that result from inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes. A common, but inaccurate, name for this condition is hay fever. It is estimated that 40-50 million people in the United States develop allergic rhinitis during their lifetime.
Allergic rhinitis precedes the onset of
Mucous membranes in the nose may become inflamed when certain airborne allergens—such as dust, pollen, mold, or animal dander—are inhaled. For those who are sensitive, these allergens stimulate an excessive immune reaction.
The body produces an immunoglobulin antibody (IgE) specific to that allergen and binds to mast cells that produce chemicals, such as histamines. This is called “sensitization.” The next time your body comes into contact with the allergen, the antibody recognizes it, and the histamine is released. The histamine causes dilation of nasal blood vessels and inflammation of the mucous membranes, which result in common allergy symptoms.
Types of Allergic Rhinitis
There are two types of allergic rhinitis:
Complications of Allergic Rhinitis
In general, allergic rhinitis is a relatively mild condition that may cause discomfort, but is seldom serious. Some complications associated with allergic rhinitis include:
Advice from your allergist: Rhinitis. American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website. Available at: http://www.acaai.org/public/advice/rhin.htm . Accessed September 15, 2008.
Allergic rhinitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated September 2008. Accessed September 15, 2008.
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