The term rhinitis refers to an inflammatory response of the lining of the membrane of the nose. There are numerous causes of rhinitis and allergic rhinitis is just one of them. Up to 20% of the population suffer to some degree from nasal allergy with symptoms that include sneezing, a runny nose or a blocked nose.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis is also known as hay fever and is caused by allergies to various types of pollen, but sufferers can also experience perennial allergic rhinitis, which is caused by allergies to things like house dust mites, chemicals, food and animal hair.
Many sufferers may have associated evidence of sensitivity such as asthma, eczema, allergic dermatitis and drug allergies.
Your ENT consultant will take a comprehensive history to establish the severity of disease and the best course of investigation and initial treatment. If allergy is suspected then a blood test or skin prick allergy test may be performed.
Options for treatment include:
1. Allergen avoidance measures
Total eradication of the allergen is usually not possible, but measures to reduce the allergen in the local environment should be encouraged. The measures used / recommended will differ depending on the nature of the allergen.
2. Drug treatment
Patients need drugs for allergic rhinitis if avoiding the allergen is impossible or fails to control the symptoms.
Decongestants simply relieve symptoms; your consultant is likely to prescribe topical or systemic medication to block the effects of the allergens.
Desensitisation is now an encouraging way of treating those with severe symptoms that have not responded to conventional treatment. Not all patients are suitable for this treatment but your specialist will be able to advise.