Allergic Rhinitis

A runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and  a stuffy or itchy nose. These are all signs that you may have allergies, or allergic rhinitis.

The term “rhinitis” refers to inflammation in your nose.

Allergic rhinitis that happens in only part of the year is often called seasonal rhinitis, or hay fever. Rhinitis that happens all year long is called perennial allergic rhinitis.

Allergic rhinitis usually isn’t a serious problem. But the symptoms can sometimes disrupt daily life.


Your immune system protects your body from germs. But sometimes the immune system can also react to certain common substances that are not germs. This kind of substance is called an allergen.

When an allergencomes into contact with the body, the immune system releases chemicals called histamines. These are what cause your allergy symptoms.

Pollen is a common allergen. Other common allergens are cockroaches and their droppings, dust mite droppings, skin cells or dander from pets, and mold. All of these can cause symptoms of allergic rhinitis.


Some of the symptoms you might get with allergic rhinitis include:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Watery eyes, and
  • Itching of the nose, eyes, mouth, and throat

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they occur. Tell him or her if you’ve taken any medications for your symptoms, and whether it helped. The next step might be skin or blood tests for allergies. Allergy testing can help your healthcare provider find out what triggers your symptoms.


Your symptoms may get better or go away if you avoid things that trigger them.

Your healthcare provider might advise you to try medications that block histamines. These medications are called antihistamines. Many antihistamines are available over the counter at your local pharmacy.

Some antihistamines can make you sleepy. Others are less likely to make you tired. Ask your pharmacist about which drugs have which side effects.

Your healthcare provider might also recommend decongestants. These can help relieve your stuffy nose. You don’t need a prescription for most decongestants, but some are only sold with a prescription.

Decongestants can make it hard to sleep. They can also make you irritable and feel like your heart is racing. They are not recommended for people with certain health conditions. Check with your healthcare provider before taking a decongestant if you have high blood pressure, a heart condition, or you’re more than 60 years old.

Steroid nasal sprays are one of the best treatments for allergic rhinitis. They are only available by prescription. They work best if you use them regularly.

If you’ve had allergy testing, your healthcare provider might recommend allergy shots.

Allergic rhinitis and asthma often occur together. If you have asthma, your health care provider might recommend additional treatments.

Things to Remember

Allergic rhinitis usually isn’t a serious problem.

Avoiding allergy triggers might help improve your symptoms.

Several types of medications might help relieve your symptoms.

Allergy shots may improve your symptoms in the long term.

If you have allergic rhinitis, talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. Working with your healthcare provider is the best way to get answers and help yourself feel better.

What We Have Learned

  1. Pollen is a common cause of allergic rhinitis. True or False?
    The answer is true. Pollen is a type of allergen.

  2. Decongestants will probably make you feel sleepy. True or False?
    The answer is false. Decongestants can make it hard for some people to sleep.

  3. Steroid nasal sprays and allergy shots can help your symptoms long-term. True or false?
    The answer is true. These medications can help lessen your symptoms for long periods of time.