Are your kids skipping school or sent home because of all that sniffles?
Are you getting weird stares in public because of the occasional sneezes?
Do you regularly experience the following symptoms almost every morning?
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
In this current pandemic, these could also well be common symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis which can often be mistaken as infective symptoms increasing stress and anxiety for so many around us.
You may have allergic rhinitis!
It does not matter how old you are, you can be affected by Allergic Rhinitis (AR). This a very widespread condition and affects millions worldwide. However, most people start showing symptoms of the condition before age 30. Here are some statistics to give some perspective. 44% of Singaporean school children have been diagnosed with AR according to local demographic studies.
Another name for Allergic Rhinitis is hay fever. There is no cure for this chronic disease, but it can be effectively managed by those who are impacted. Your day to day routine can be severely affected by AR. Symptoms can be both overbearing and uncomfortable. You have come to the right page if think you may have Allergic Rhinitis or if you are having a hard time managing your condition.
So, what is Allergic Rhinitis exactly?
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever, simply put is a group of nasal symptoms and it usually develops when the body’s immune system overacts to airborne allergens.
An allergic reaction is usually caused by an allergen. Allergens are harmless for the most part but can prompt an allergic response. Your immune system’s response produces inflammation in your nose which in turns trigger a host of unpleasant symptoms.
What are the common symptoms and indicators of Allergic Rhinitis?
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy throat
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Incessant sneezing
- Nasal itchiness/irritation
- Regular headaches
- Weepy/watery eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Dark circles under eyes
Are there different types of allergic rhinitis?
Yes, there are. There are 2 types namely Allergic rhinitis perennial and seasonal. Both are explained below:
Perennial: Patients who suffer from perennial allergic rhinitis experience symptoms throughout the year. It is the leading cause of AR in Singapore. The allergens that cause perennial allergic rhinitis are pet hair/dander, cockroaches, mould, and dust mites. Undiscovered food allergies rarely cause perennial symptoms.
Seasonal: Spring, summer and the beginning of fall are the seasons that really trigger seasonal allergic rhinitis. The allergic response is usually caused by pollen from grass, weeds and trees or the spores from mould.
Now that we know what Allergic Rhinitis is, what are the possible allergens?
- Dust mites
- Animal dander (Your pet sheds dead skin cells as they move around your house)
How does an Allergic Rhinitis reaction start?
If you want to know exactly what happens in your body when you come into contact with allergens, you have come to the place. Firstly, you should be aware that your body may react in minutes to the allergen and symptoms may be almost instantaneous.
Your body produces histamines when it comes in contact with an allergen. Histamines are the chemical particles that allergy cells produce when your body’s immune system is triggered.
Histamines are a part of your body’s defense mechanism, it makes you tear-up, sneeze and generally get your nasal secretions going in an attempt to remove the errant allergen. As such it is the histamine produced by your body that is responsible for symptoms. Allergic rhinitis, in a nutshell, is basically a disproportionate response to a harmless allergen.
What are the common allergens found in Singapore?
The most widespread allergens in Singapore are cockroaches, dogs, cats, dust mites, moulds and pollens. However, the allergen that is ranked number one is the house dust mite. These aeroallergens (airborne) are inhaled and affect the respiratory tract setting off an allergic response.
What can I do to prevent or treat Allergic Rhinitis?
You can definitely be proactive and take charge of your Allergic Rhinitis. There is much you can do to lessen the effects of your triggers. You can try allergen avoidance strategies. These are usually inexpensive to step up and usually have no side effects. Your symptoms can be drastically reduced if measures are followed stringently.
Here are some preventive measures that are focused on allergy avoidance:
- Use air-conditioning
In order to keep the pollen at minimum levels, we suggest that you close your doors and windows and use your air conditioning unit.
- Purchase a dehumidifier
A dehumidifier helps regulate moisture levels in your home. As such mould and dust mite growth are minimized if not eliminated altogether. Dust mites flourish at humidity levels of 70-80%.
- Use dust-mite casings
One of the most effective allergy avoidances measures is the use of dust mite casings. These are covers usually with zippers that you can put over your pillows, blankets, and mattresses. These casings are made out of materials that have extremely small pores that make them impervious to dust mite allergens.
Allergic rhinitis patients have seen their symptoms improve with dust mite casings and have even been able to reduce their medication dosage.
- Use anti-dust mite sprays
These sprays can be applied to fabrics and textiles like carpets, curtains, stuffed toys. According to studies, anti-dust mite sprays are non-toxic and can help decrease dust mites by over 90%.
- Purchase an air purifier
An air purifier is an excellent investment. It helps reduce allergen concentrations in your house, automatically improving your symptoms.
- Explore medical treatment
There are several medical treatments available for allergic rhinitis. However, just remember that these medications only help alleviate the symptoms. They will not cure your allergy.
Antihistamines work by suppressing histamine production in your body. They are available at any pharmacy and are over the counter medications. You can consult your physician or your pharmacist when choosing the right antihistamine for you.
Nasal spray and eye drops
Generally, the eye drops are used to soothe eye irritation while nasal sprays tackle the congestion and nasal itchiness brought on by Allergic rhinitis.
You may also be prescribed a steroidal nasal spray that helps suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. This is a long-term measure.
It should also be noted that non-steroidal nasal sprays and eye drops should not be abused since your body often becomes dependent on them. As such, if you stop using them, symptoms often worsen when they re-emerge. They should only be used for quick relief during a flare.
Is there a potential CURE for Allergic Rhinitis?
There certainly is!
You can ask your doctor about Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). This treatment focuses on the reduction of symptoms caused by a specific allergen. Studies have shown that this treatment can eliminate symptoms for up to 10 years. The prospect of being symptom-free without having to take medications is truly enticing!
So, if you are suffering from Allergic rhinitis, there are many options that you can explore. In order to achieve maximum results, we recommend combining your management strategies with your chosen treatment. You should see a reduction in your symptoms with this two-prong approach.