Nasal Allergies 101
by Dr. Santhosh Kumar, Division of Allergy and Immunology
Original article from 2012 CHoR Tid*Bits Calendar.
What does the term allergy mean?
Allergy is a condition where the body over-responds to a harmless substance. There are different types of allergies, although the basic underlying process is the same. When substances trigger an allergic response in the nose, we have nasal allergies. Other common types include food, drug and insect sting allergies.
What are symptoms of nasal allergies?Common symptoms of nasal allergies include sneezing, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes, stuffy nose, nose bleeds, decreased sense of smell, headaches, fatigue and poor sleep. Other symptoms which can result from nasal allergies include sinus pressure, earaches, throat itching, post nasal drip (excess mucus in the back of the throat) and cough. Usually people have a combination of these symptoms.
What are triggers for nasal allergies?Nasal allergies can be "triggered" by a variety of different allergens:
Perennial allergies are allergies that occur throughout the year. These types of allergies are most commonly caused by something a person is exposed to year round. Common triggers for perennial nasal allergies include indoor allergens such as dust mites; dander (hair, feathers or skin) from cats, dogs, mice, rats and birds; roaches; and mold.
Seasonal allergies (commonly called "hay fever") are allergies that occur during particular seasons. Children more frequently have seasonal allergies compared to adults. Common triggers for seasonal nasal allergies include outdoor allergens such as tree, grass and weed pollen and outdoor mold. Keep in mind that outdoor allergens can be found in significant quantity indoors in some homes.
Who is affected by allergies?Anyone can be affected by allergies but the likelihood of a child developing an allergy increases if one or both parents have allergies. The influence of the environment can also cause an allergic condition to start in a person.
It typically takes at least two seasons for a child to develop an allergic response to outdoor allergens. So, nasal allergies are most often seen in children age 2 and older. There are exceptions, however, as children can become sensitized earlier to indoor allergens. (A child who is exposed to significant indoor allergens and whose parents both have or have had allergies, for example, may develop an allergic response before age 2.) Usually a child with allergies develops red, itchy skin (eczema), then over the next year or two develops nasal allergies, and maybe eventually asthma (inflammation of airways of the lungs that leads to breathing difficulties). It is important to recognize and treat allergies at the earliest possible stage with the hope of preventing this progression.
Who can help with allergies?If you think your child has allergy symptoms, request a referral from your primary care doctor to see an allergist for evaluation. An allergist will be able to identify triggers for your child's allergy and offer allergen avoidance measures and also medications, depending on the need. In addition to medications, some children benefit from allergy shots which help reduce their sensitivity to allergens.
Pollen counts can be found at www.aaaai.org and on local news stations and The Weather Channel.