Allergic rhinitis

"Hay fever" redirects here. For the play, see Hay Fever.
Pollen Allergy
Pollen grains from a variety of common plants can cause hay fever. Enlarged 500×, ~400 µm wide.
ICD-10 J30
ICD-9 477
OMIM 607154
DiseasesDB 31140
MedlinePlus 000813
eMedicine ent/194 med/104, ped/2560
MeSH D012221

Allergic rhinitis is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways. It occurs when an allergen, such as pollen, dust, or animal dander (particles of shed skin and hair) is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system. In such individuals, the allergen triggers the production of the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE), which binds to mast cells and basophils containing histamine. When caused by pollens of any plants, it is called pollinosis, and, if specifically caused by grass or tree pollens, it is known as hay fever. While symptoms resembling a cold or flu can be produced by an allergic reaction to pollen from plants and grasses it does not cause a fever. The link with hay came about due to an early (and incorrect) theory that the symptoms were brought about by the smell of new hay (coumarin).[1] A competing popular name was 'hay asthma'.

IgE bound to mast cells are stimulated by allergens, causing the release of inflammatory mediators such as histamine (and other chemicals).[2] This usually causes sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages, and an increase in mucus production. Symptoms vary in severity between individuals. Very sensitive individuals can experience hives or other rashes. Particulate matter in polluted air, and chemicals such as chlorine and detergents, which can normally be tolerated, can greatly aggravate allergic rhinitis. The first accurate description of hay fever was completed by the 10th century physician Rhazes in his manuscript "A Dissertation on the Causes of the Coryza which Occurs in the Spring When the Roses Give Forth Their Scent." The true agent causing hay fever was finally identified as pollen in 1859 by Charles Blackley, who concluded that pollen contained toxins leading to the reaction.[3] It was not until 1906 that the mechanisms of allergy as a type of hypersensitivity were understood following the work of Clemens von Pirquet.

Allergies are common. Heredity and environmental exposures may contribute to a predisposition to allergies. It is roughly estimated that one in three people has an active allergy at any given time and at least three in four people develop an allergic reaction at least once in their lives. In Western countries, between 10–25% of people annually are affected by allergic rhinitis.[4]

Signs and symptoms

File:Blausen 0015 AllergicRhinitis.png
Illustration depicting inflammation associated with allergic rhinitis

The characteristic symptoms of allergic rhinitis are: rhinorrhea (excess nasal secretion), itching, sneezing fits, and nasal congestion and obstruction.[5] Characteristic physical findings include conjunctival swelling and erythema, eyelid swelling, lower eyelid venous stasis (rings under the eyes known as "allergic shiners"), swollen nasal turbinates, and middle ear effusion.[6]

There can also be behavioural signs; in order to relieve the irritation or flow of mucus, patients may wipe or rub their nose with the palm of their hand in an upward motion: an action known as the "nasal salute" or the "allergic salute". This may result in a crease running across the nose (or above each nostril if only one side of the nose is wiped at a time), commonly referred to as the "transverse nasal crease", and can lead to permanent physical deformity if repeated enough.[7]

Sufferers might also find that cross-reactivity occurs.[8] For example, someone allergic to birch pollen may also find that he/she has an allergic reaction to the skin of apples or potatoes.[9] A clear sign of this is the occurrence of an itchy throat after eating an apple or sneezing when peeling potatoes or apples. This occurs because of similarities in the proteins of the pollen and the food.[10] There are many cross-reacting substances.

Some disorders may be associated with allergies: Comorbidities include eczema, asthma, and depression.[citation needed]

Hay fever is not a true fever, meaning it does not cause a core body temperature in the fever range of 37.5–38.3 °C (99.5-100.9 °F). However, the name still makes some sense because it can cause increased fluctuation in the core temperature of a sufferer, in conjunction with inflammation.


Allergic rhinitis triggered by the pollens of specific seasonal plants is commonly known as "hay fever", because it is most prevalent during haying season. However, it is possible to suffer from allergic rhinitis throughout the year. The pollen that causes hay fever varies between individuals and from region to region; in general, the tiny, hardly visible pollens of wind-pollinated plants are the predominant cause. Pollens of insect-pollinated plants are too large to remain airborne and pose no risk. Examples of plants commonly responsible for hay fever include:

Allergic rhinitis may also be caused by allergy to Balsam of Peru, which is in various fragrances and other products.[12][13][14]


Allergy testing may reveal the specific allergens to which an individual is sensitive. Skin testing is the most common method of allergy testing. This may include a patch test to determine if a particular substance is causing the rhinitis, or an intradermal, scratch, or other test. Less commonly, the suspected allergen is dissolved and dropped onto the lower eyelid as a means of testing for allergies. This test should be done only by a physician, never the patient, since it can be harmful if done improperly. In some individuals not able to undergo skin testing (as determined by the doctor), the RAST blood test may be helpful in determining specific allergen sensitivity. Peripheral eosinophilia can be seen in differential leukocyte count.

Allergy testing can either show allergies that are not actually causing symptoms or miss allergies that do cause symptoms. The intradermal allergy test is more sensitive than the skin prick test but is more often positive in people that do not have symptoms to that allergen.[15]

Even if a person has negative skin-prick, intradermal and blood tests for allergies, he/she may still have allergic rhinitis, from a local allergy in the nose. This is called local allergic rhinitis.[16] Specialized testing is necessary to diagnose local allergic rhinitis.[17]


Allergic rhinitis may be seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergic rhinitis occurs in particular during pollen seasons. It does not usually develop until after 6 years of age. Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs throughout the year. This type of allergic rhinitis is commonly seen in younger children.[18]

Allergic rhinitis may also be classified as Mild-Intermittent, Moderate-Severe intermittent, Mild-Persistent, and Moderate-Severe Persistent. Intermittent is when the symptoms occur <4 days per week or <4 consecutive weeks. Persistent is when symptoms occur >4 days/week and >4 consecutive weeks. The symptoms are considered mild with normal sleep, no impairment of daily activities, no impairment of work or school, and if symptoms are not troublesome. Severe symptoms result in sleep disturbance, impairment of daily activities, and impairment of school or work.[19]


The goal of rhinitis treatment is to prevent or reduce the symptoms caused by the inflammation of affected tissues. Measures that are effective include avoiding the allergen.[5] Intranasal corticosteroids are the preferred treatment if medications are required, with other options used only if these are not effective.[5] Mite-proof covers, air filters, and withholding certain foods in childhood do not have evidence supporting their effectiveness.[5]


Antihistamine drugs can be taken orally and nasally to control symptoms such as sneezing, rhinorrhea, itching, and conjunctivitis.

It is best to take oral antihistamine medication before exposure, especially for seasonal allergic rhinitis. In the case of nasal antihistamines like azelastine antihistamine nasal spray, relief from symptoms is experienced within 15 minutes allowing for a more immediate 'as-needed' approach to dosage.

Ophthalmic antihistamines (such as azelastine in eye drop form and ketotifen) are used for conjunctivitis, while intranasal forms are used mainly for sneezing, rhinorrhea, and nasal pruritus.[2]

Antihistamine drugs can have undesirable side-effects, the most notable one being drowsiness in the case of oral antihistamine tablets. First-generation antihistamine drugs such as diphenhydramine cause drowsiness, but second- and third-generation antihistamines such as cetirizine and loratadine are less likely to cause drowsiness.[2]

Pseudoephedrine is also indicated for vasomotor rhinitis. It is used only when nasal congestion is present and can be used with antihistamines. In the United States, oral decongestants containing pseudoephedrine must be purchased behind the pharmacy counter by law in effort to prevent the making of methamphetamine.[2]


Intranasal corticosteroids are used to control symptoms associated with sneezing, rhinorrhea, itching, and nasal congestion. It is an excellent choice for perennial rhinitis.[2] Steroid nasal sprays are effective and safe, and may be effective without oral antihistamines. They take several days to act and so must be taken continually for several weeks, as their therapeutic effect builds up with time.

In 2013, a study compared the efficacy of mometasone furoate nasal spray to betamethasone oral tablets for the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis and found that the two have virtually equivalent effects on nasal symptoms in patients.[20]

Systemic steroids such as prednisone tablets and intramuscular triamcinolone acetonide or Glucocorticoid (such as Betamethasone) injection are effective at reducing nasal inflammation,[citation needed] but their use is limited by their short duration of effect and the side-effects of prolonged steroid therapy.[21]


Other measures that may be used second line include: decongestants, cromolyn, leukotriene receptor antagonists, and nonpharmacologic therapies such as nasal irrigation.[5]

Topical decongestants may also be helpful in reducing symptoms such as nasal congestion, but should not be used for long periods, as stopping them after protracted use can lead to a rebound nasal congestion called rhinitis medicamentosa.

For nocturnal symptoms, intranasal corticosteroids can be combined with nightly oxymetazoline, an adrenergic alpha-agonist, or an antihistamine nasal spray without risk of rhinitis medicamentosa.[22]

Allergen immunotherapy

Allergen immunotherapy (AIT, also termed desensitization) treatment involves administering doses of allergens to accustom the body to substances that are generally harmless (pollen, house dust mites), thereby inducing specific long-term tolerance.[23] Allergy immunotherapy can be administered orally (as sublingual tablets or sublingual drops), or by injections under the skin (subcutaneous). Discovered by Leonard Noon and John Freeman in 1911, allergy immunotherapy represents the only causative treatment for respiratory allergies.

Complementary and alternative treatments

Therapeutic efficacy of complementary-alternative treatments such as acupuncture and homeopathy is not supported by currently available evidence.[24][25] Some evidence shows that acupuncture is effective for rhinitis, whereas other evidence does not. The overall quality of evidence, however, is poor.[26]

Recent studies have shown that clinical hypnosis may be effective in reducing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, and the medication requirements of patients suffering this condition.[27]


Nasal allergy may cause recurrent sinusitis because of the obstruction to the sinus ostia. It may lead to the formation of nasal polypi. Nasal allergy can result in serious otitis media and orthodontic problems. Patients with nasal allergy have four times more risk of developing asthma.

Local allergic rhinitis

Local allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction in the nose to an allergen, without systemic allergies. So skin-prick and blood tests for allergy are negative, but there are IgE antibodies produced in the nose that react to a specific allergen. Intradermal skin testing may also be negative.[17]

The symptoms of local allergic rhinitis are the same as the symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including symptoms in the eyes. Just as with allergic rhinitis, people can have either seasonal or perennial local allergic rhinitis. The symptoms of local allergic rhinitis can be mild, moderate, or severe. Local allergic rhinitis is associated with conjunctivitis and asthma.[17]

In one study, about 25% of patients with rhinitis had local allergic rhinitis.[28] In several studies, over 40% of people having been diagnosed with nonallergic rhinitis were found to actually have local allergic rhinitis.[16]

Steroid nasal sprays and oral antihistamines have been found to be effective for local allergic rhinitis.[17] A preliminary study found that allergy shots were also effective,[29] and clinical trials of allergy shots are being done, as of Dec. 2012.[30]


Vaccination against Influenza viruses, Adenoviruses, Measles, Rubella, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Diphtheria, Bacillus anthracis, and Bordetella pertussis may even help prevent allergic rhinitis, and possible complication of asthma.

Aerobiology is the science who study biological particles passively dispersed through the air. In this sense, one of its main aims is the prevention of pollinosis symptoms. The minimum requirements published after a big consensus are an international standard to ensure the quality in Aerobiological method.[31][32]

See also


  1. ^ The Lancet, May 19, 1838, p245. Dr. Marshall Hall on Diseases of the Respiratory System; III. Hay Asthma; quoting Dr Bostock from Transactions of the Medico-Chirurgical Society: "With respect to what is termed the exciting cause of the disease, since the attention of the public has been turned to the subject an idea has very generally prevailed, that it is produced by the effluvium from new hay, and it has hence obtained the popular name of hay fever. [...] the effluvium from hay has no connection with the disease."
  2. ^ a b c d e May, J.R.; Smith, P.H. (2008). "Allergic Rhinitis". In DiPiro, J.T.; Talbert, R.L.; Yee, G.C.; Matzke, G.; Wells, B.; Posey, L.M. Pharmacotherapy: A Pathophysiologic Approach (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 1565–75. ISBN 007147899X. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Dykewicz MS, Hamilos DL; Hamilos (February 2010). "Rhinitis and sinusitis". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 125 (2 Suppl 2): S103–15. PMID 20176255. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.12.989. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Sur DK, Scandale S; Scandale (June 2010). "Treatment of allergic rhinitis". Am Fam Physician 81 (12): 1440–6. PMID 20540482. 
  6. ^ Valet RS, Fahrenholz JM (2009). "Allergic rhinitis: update on diagnosis". Consultant 49: 610–3. 
  7. ^ Pray, W. Steven (2005). Nonprescription Product Therapeutics. p. 221: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 0781734983. 
  8. ^ Czaja-Bulsa G, Bachórska J; Bachórska (1998). "[Food allergy in children with pollinosis in the Western sea coast region]". Pol Merkur Lekarski 5 (30): 338–40. PMID 10101519. 
  9. ^ Yamamoto T, Asakura K, Shirasaki H, Himi T, Ogasawara H, Narita S, Kataura A; Asakura; Shirasaki; Himi; Ogasawara; Narita; Kataura (2005). "[Relationship between pollen allergy and oral allergy syndrome]". Nippon Jibiinkoka Gakkai Kaiho 108 (10): 971–9. PMID 16285612. doi:10.3950/jibiinkoka.108.971. 
  10. ^ Malandain H (2003). "[Allergies associated with both food and pollen]". Allerg Immunol (Paris) 35 (7): 253–6. PMID 14626714. 
  11. ^ "Allergy Friendly Trees". 2014-03-05. Retrieved 2014-04-25. 
  12. ^ Pamela Brooks (2012). The Daily Telegraph: Complete Guide to Allergies. ISBN 9781472103949. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  13. ^ Denver Medical Times: Utah Medical Journal. Nevada Medicine. 2010-01-01. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  14. ^ George Clinton Andrews, Anthony Nicholas Domonkos (1998-07-01). Diseases of the Skin: For Practitioners and Students. Retrieved 2014-04-27. 
  15. ^ "Allergy Tests". 
  16. ^ a b Rondón, Carmen; Canto, Gabriela; Blanca, Miguel (2010). "Local allergic rhinitis: A new entity, characterization and further studies". Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology 10 (1): 1–7. PMID 20010094. doi:10.1097/ACI.0b013e328334f5fb. 
  17. ^ a b c d Rondón, C; Fernandez, J; Canto, G; Blanca, M (2010). "Local allergic rhinitis: Concept, clinical manifestations, and diagnostic approach" (PDF). Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology 20 (5): 364–71; quiz 2 p following 371. PMID 20945601. 
  18. ^ "Rush University Medical Center". Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  19. ^ Bousquet J, Reid J, van Weel C et al. (August 2008). "Allergic rhinitis management pocket reference 2008". Allergy 63 (8): 990–6. PMID 18691301. doi:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2008.01642.x. 
  20. ^ Efficacy of intranasal steroid spray (mometasone furoate) on treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: comparison with oral corticosteroids.
  21. ^ A comparison of three injectable corticosteroids for the treatment of patients with seasonal hay fever. (this is a study from 1980 - please look for more recent studies as well)
  22. ^ Baroody FM, Brown D, Gavanescu L, Detineo M, Naclerio RM; Brown; Gavanescu; Detineo; Naclerio (2011). "Oxymetazoline adds to the effectiveness of fluticasone furoate in the treatment of perennial allergic rhinitis". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 127 (4): 927–34. PMID 21377716. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.01.037. 
  23. ^ Van Overtvelt L. et al. Immune mechanisms of allergen-specific sublingual immunotherapy. Revue française d’allergologie et d’immunologie clinique. 2006; 46: 713–720.
  24. ^ Passalacqua G, Bousquet PJ, Carlsen KH, Kemp J, Lockey RF, Niggemann B, Pawankar R, Price D, Bousquet J; Bousquet; Carlsen; Kemp; Lockey; Niggemann; Pawankar; Price; Bousquet (2006). "ARIA update: I—Systematic review of complementary and alternative medicine for rhinitis and asthma". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 117 (5): 1054–62. PMID 16675332. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2005.12.1308. 
  25. ^ Terr A (2004). "Unproven and controversial forms of immunotherapy". Clin Allergy Immunol. 18 (1): 703–10. PMID 15042943. 
  26. ^ Witt CM, Brinkhaus B; Brinkhaus (July 2010). "Efficacy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis — An overview about previous and ongoing studies". Auton Neurosci 157 (1–2): 42–5. PMID 20609633. doi:10.1016/j.autneu.2010.06.006. 
  27. ^ Nash, MR & Klyce, D (2006). "International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis". International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. doi:10.1080/00207140591008841#.UgGMn5LVArV (inactive 2015-04-15). 
  28. ^ Rondón C, Campo P, Galindo L, Blanca-López N, Cassinello MS, Rodriguez-Bada JL, Torres MJ, Blanca M.; Campo; Galindo; Blanca-López; Cassinello; Rodriguez-Bada; Torres; Blanca (2012). "Prevalence and clinical relevance of local allergic rhinitis". Allergy 67 (10): 1282–8. PMID 22913574. doi:10.1111/all.12002. 
  29. ^ Rondón C, Blanca-López N, Aranda A, Herrera R, Rodriguez-Bada JL, Canto G, Mayorga C, Torres MJ, Campo P, Blanca M.; Blanca-López; Aranda; Herrera; Rodriguez-Bada; Canto; Mayorga; Torres; Campo; Blanca (2011). "Local allergic rhinitis: allergen tolerance and immunologic changes after preseasonal immunotherapy with grass pollen". The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 127 (4): 1069–71. PMID 21277626. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.12.013. 
  30. ^ Klimek L, von Bernus L, Pfaar O.; von Bernus; Pfaar (2012). "Local (exclusive) IgE production in the nasal mucosa : Evidence for local allergic rhinitis". HNO (in German) 61 (3): 217–23. PMID 23241861. doi:10.1007/s00106-012-2584-0. 
  31. ^ Galán, C., Smith, M., Thibaudon, M., Frenguelli, G., Oteros, J., Gehrig, R., ... & EAS QC Working Group. (2014). Pollen monitoring: minimum requirements and reproducibility of analysis. Aerobiologia, 30(4), 385-395.
  32. ^ Oteros, J., Galán, C., Alcázar, P., & Domínguez-Vilches, E. (2013). Quality control in bio-monitoring networks, Spanish Aerobiology Network. Science of the total environment, 443, 559-565

External links

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