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Allergic rhinitis is inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by an allergen, such as pollen, dust, mould or certain animal danders.
Allergic rhinitis often causes cold-like symptoms, such as sneezing, itchiness and a blocked or runny nose. These symptoms usually start soon after being exposed to an allergen.
Some people only get allergic rhinitis for a few months at a time because they are sensitive to seasonal allergens, such as tree or grass pollen. Other people get allergic rhinitis all year round.
Read more about the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
What causes allergic rhinitis?
Allergic rhinitis is caused by the immune system reacting to an allergen as if it were harmful. The immune system is the body's natural defence against infection and illness.
If your immune system is oversensitive, it will react by attacking allergens in the same way it attacks viruses and infections.
Known allergens include pollen (this type of allergic rhinitis is known as hay fever), house dust mites and certain animals.
Read more about the causes of allergic rhinitis.
Diagnosing allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is usually straightforward to diagnose based on your symptoms.
Your GP may also examine the inside of your nose for fleshy swellings known as nasal polyps, which can result from allergic rhinitis.
If the exact cause of your allergic rhinitis is uncertain, you may be referred for allergy testing.
Read more about diagnosing allergic rhinitis.
Treating allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is not usually harmful but it can be irritating and affect your quality of life.
Identifying the allergen and avoiding it is the first step in managing the condition. Although this is not always easy.
If your symptoms are mild, you should be able to treat them yourself by:
- taking over-the-counter medication -such as non-sedating antihistamines and decongestants to help relieve congestion and a runny nose
- nasal douching - regularly rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution to keep your nose free of irritants
Visit your GP if your symptoms are affecting your quality of life. They may prescribe stronger medication, such as a nasal spray that contains corticosteroids.
Sinus infection (sinusitis) is a common complication of rhinitis. Fluid that builds up in the sinuses usually drains away. However, if it is unable to drain away, due to excess mucus or nasal polyps, for example, it can become infected with bacteria.
Read more about the complications of allergic rhinitis.