A runny nose is certainly inconvenient, but when caused by an allergic reaction, it can be ongoing, difficult to treat, and affect your quality of life.
Allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes) refers to a nasal irritation, which is the result of an allergic reaction. Symptoms include itching, sneezing, a runny nose and nasal congestion.
Sometimes it is difficult to determine an exact allergy trigger, and ongoing allergic rhinitis can become the cause of nasal and sinus problems in the long run.
Even though the condition is often trivialised, it can have a great impact on quality of life, and leaving this untreated can be more debilitating than asthma, according to Dr Adrian Morris of the Allergy Clinic.
Most often this affects quality of sleep, which can have a knock-on effect on productivity at work and school performance, according to the journal Current Allergy & Clinical Immunology.
Exact figures on the prevalence of allergic rhinitis in SA are not available, but clinical experience suggests that it is no different from global data: the percentage of the population affected by this disease ranges from 4.5 – 38.3%, and is on the increase, possibly because of increasing pollution levels, according to Dr Nadine Butler.
The difference between persistent and intermittent allergic rhinitis is that the former lasts more than four weeks per year and the latter less than four weeks per year. The allergens responsible for more than 80% of allergic rhinitis cases are house-dust mites, Bermuda grass, rye grass, pets, cockroaches and fungal spores. Unlike seasonal allergic rhinitis, perennial allergic rhinitis occurs right throughout the year.
But it is not just environmental allergens that play a part in causing allergic rhinitis – it appears that children with parents who have allergies, have a higher chance of developing allergies as well, says Allergy UK.
The treatment of allergic rhinitis ranges from the active avoidance of the allergen once it has been identified (often with a skin-prick test), to treating with medication such as corticosteroid nasal sprays and antihistamines. Some corticosteroid nasal sprays are available over the counter, while others require a script. These nasal sprays are not the decongestant variety, which only treat the symptoms short-term. Choice of treatment depends on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. Non-sedating antihistamines can be used for mild or seasonal allergic rhinitis but for moderate to severe allergic rhinitis or if it is persistent, corticosteroid nasal sprays are the gold-standard first-line therapy.
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