Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as a runny nose, or when due to pollen exposure, “Hay Fever” is the medical term describing irritation and inflammation of the nose. This results in a variety of symptoms including runny nose, sneezing, stuffy nose, sore throat, itching of the nose, mouth and eyes, as well as tearing of the eyes. An allergen is something that triggers an allergy. When a person with allergic rhinitis breathes in an allergen such as pollen or dust, the body releases chemicals, including histamine. This causes allergy symptoms. Hay fever involves an allergic reaction to pollen. A similar reaction occurs with allergy to mold, animal dander, dust, and similar inhaled allergens. The pollens that cause hay fever vary from person to person and from region to region. Large, visible pollens such as those from colorful, showy flowers are seldom responsible for hay fever. Tiny, hard to see pollens more often cause hay fever. Examples of plants commonly responsible for hay fever include trees, grasses, and weeds, in particular, ragweed. Though allergies (and allergic rhinitis) are common, many people who suffer from the symptoms above actually do not have allergy!
When consulting your MLA physician it is likely that allergy testing will be performed. This will tell you if in fact your symptoms are due to an environmental allergy and if so, which particular ones. Skin testing (“scratch test”) is the most common method of allergy testing. If your doctor determines you cannot undergo skin testing, special blood tests may help with the diagnosis. These tests can measure the levels of specific allergy-related substances (antibodies), especially one called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Based on the results of the allergy testing, your physician will be better able to recommend various treatments, including avoidance strategies, medications and allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help control your symptoms.