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Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

Inflammation of the mucous membrane lining the nose due to allergy. The inflammation may also involve the mucous membranes of the sinuses, eyes, middle ear, and pharynx. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion, rhinorrhea, and itching.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NCI - National Cancer Institute)

About Allergic Rhinitis

Many children and adults are affected by hay fever in the spring and summer months, when plants grow and bloom. Hay fever is caused by higher amounts of pollen in the air. A lot of people who have allergies and asthma have more asthma attacks around this time of year too.

Some people have allergy symptoms such as sneezing and a stuffy nose all year round. This might be caused by an allergy to things like animal fur, mold or dust mites.

If someone has an allergic reaction to substances such as pollen or animal fur and it affects their upper respiratory tract (upper airways), it is called "allergic rhinitis."

Symptoms

People who have allergic rhinitis sneeze a lot and have a runny or stuffy nose. If their symptoms are more severe, they might also feel weak and tired. Sometimes people have watery and itchy eyes too, and their eyelids become swollen... Read more about Allergic Rhinitis

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Capsaicin for allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a common health problem affecting between 10% and 25% of the population, and its prevalence is increasing. The symptoms include a running or blocked nose, itching and sneezing. Several drug therapies are available including antihistamines and steroids. Capsaicin, which is the pungent component of hot pepper, has also been used. With repeated doses applied topically it may desensitize the lining of the nose and have a therapeutic effect on allergic rhinitis. The review found one small, low quality randomized controlled trial which did not demonstrate a therapeutic effect of capsaicin on allergic rhinitis symptoms. Further trials are needed.

Antihistamines as an addition to topical nasal steroids for allergic rhinitis in children

Allergic rhinitis is a very common chronic illness affecting 10% to 40% of children worldwide. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is most common around springtime. The symptoms are mostly sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes. We looked for trials that compared antihistamines (either oral or topical) in addition to a topical nasal steroid with a topical nasal steroid alone in children who had allergic rhinitis. We wanted to know whether adding antihistamines (oral or topical) in the therapy of children with allergic rhinitis who already use topical nasal steroids would have additional benefits for them. We found one trial that had been carried out in children comparing oral antihistamines in addition to topical nasal steroids with topical nasal steroids alone but it did not provide sufficient data to draw any conclusions. Most of the trials focused only on adults or included a small number of children. Unfortunately, the trials which included children along with adults did not report whether there were any differences in the effect of treatment or adverse effects in children in comparison with adults. We are therefore unable to draw a conclusion as to whether or not this combination therapy has beneficial effect in children with allergic rhinitis or whether the benefits are acceptable in terms of the adverse effects.

Sublingual immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)

Allergic rhinitis is characterised by red, itchy eyes, a blocked and runny nose, and sneezing. The most common causes of allergic rhinitis are different pollens (grass and tree), house dust mites, mould and animal dander. Allergic rhinitis can be intermittent (such as hay fever) or persistent (all year round). The treatment of allergic rhinitis depends on its severity and duration, and is usually based on the use of antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids. If these drugs cannot control symptoms immunotherapy is recommended. Immunotherapy involves the administration of gradually increasing doses of the allergen over a period of time to desensitise the patient. It is the only known treatment that modifies the immune response and treats the cause rather than the symptoms.

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Summaries for consumers

Capsaicin for allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a common health problem affecting between 10% and 25% of the population, and its prevalence is increasing. The symptoms include a running or blocked nose, itching and sneezing. Several drug therapies are available including antihistamines and steroids. Capsaicin, which is the pungent component of hot pepper, has also been used. With repeated doses applied topically it may desensitize the lining of the nose and have a therapeutic effect on allergic rhinitis. The review found one small, low quality randomized controlled trial which did not demonstrate a therapeutic effect of capsaicin on allergic rhinitis symptoms. Further trials are needed.

Antihistamines as an addition to topical nasal steroids for allergic rhinitis in children

Allergic rhinitis is a very common chronic illness affecting 10% to 40% of children worldwide. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is most common around springtime. The symptoms are mostly sneezing, a runny nose and watery eyes. We looked for trials that compared antihistamines (either oral or topical) in addition to a topical nasal steroid with a topical nasal steroid alone in children who had allergic rhinitis. We wanted to know whether adding antihistamines (oral or topical) in the therapy of children with allergic rhinitis who already use topical nasal steroids would have additional benefits for them. We found one trial that had been carried out in children comparing oral antihistamines in addition to topical nasal steroids with topical nasal steroids alone but it did not provide sufficient data to draw any conclusions. Most of the trials focused only on adults or included a small number of children. Unfortunately, the trials which included children along with adults did not report whether there were any differences in the effect of treatment or adverse effects in children in comparison with adults. We are therefore unable to draw a conclusion as to whether or not this combination therapy has beneficial effect in children with allergic rhinitis or whether the benefits are acceptable in terms of the adverse effects.

Sublingual immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)

Allergic rhinitis is characterised by red, itchy eyes, a blocked and runny nose, and sneezing. The most common causes of allergic rhinitis are different pollens (grass and tree), house dust mites, mould and animal dander. Allergic rhinitis can be intermittent (such as hay fever) or persistent (all year round). The treatment of allergic rhinitis depends on its severity and duration, and is usually based on the use of antihistamines and nasal corticosteroids. If these drugs cannot control symptoms immunotherapy is recommended. Immunotherapy involves the administration of gradually increasing doses of the allergen over a period of time to desensitise the patient. It is the only known treatment that modifies the immune response and treats the cause rather than the symptoms.

See all (44)

Terms to know

Allergens
A substance that causes an allergic response. Examples include pollen, molds, and certain foods.
Allergic Reaction (Allergic Response)
Immune reaction to a substance that normally is harmless or would not cause an immune response in most people. An allergic response may cause harmful symptoms such as itching or inflammation or tissue injury.
Allergies
Conditions caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system to something in the environment that usually causes little or no problem in most people. Symptoms may include red eyes, an itchy rash, runny nose, shortness of breath, or swelling.
Antihistamine
A type of drug that blocks the action of histamines, which can cause fever, itching, sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes. Antihistamines are used to prevent fevers in patients receiving blood transfusions and to treat allergies, coughs, and colds.
Asthma
Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways.
Atopy
A tendency to be "hyperallergic". Atopic responses appear after the body is exposed to various allergens, for example pollen, dander, dust mites, certain foods, or chemical/physical irritants.
Body Membrane
A very thin layer of tissue that covers a surface.
Histamine
A substance that has many effects in the body. It is released from some types of white blood cells during allergic reactions.
Inflammation
Redness, swelling, pain, and/or a feeling of heat in an area of the body. This is a protective reaction to injury, disease, or irritation of the tissues.
Mucus
A thick, slippery fluid made by the membranes that line certain organs of the body, including the nose, mouth, throat, and vagina.
Nose
A part of the upper respiratory tract. It contains the organ of smell. The term includes the external nose, the nasal cavity, and the paranasal sinuses.
Rhinitis
Inflammation of the mucous membrane inside the nose. Common symptoms are a stuffy nose, runny nose, sneezing, and post-nasal drip.
Rhinosinusitis (Sinusitis)
Sinusitis, also known as rhinosinusitis, is inflammation of the paranasal sinuses. It can be due to infection, allergy, or autoimmune problems. Most cases are due to a viral infection and resolve over the course of 10 days.

More about Allergic Rhinitis

Photo of an adult woman

Also called: Atopic rhinitis, AR, Allergic rhinitides

See Also: Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis, Perennial Allergic Rhinitis

Other terms to know: See all 13
Allergens, Allergic Reaction (Allergic Response), Allergies

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Medications for Allergic Rhinitis

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