Allergic rhinitis is common, affecting approximately 40 million people in the United States. It is a condition whereby a person’s immune system mistakenly identifies a typically harmless substance (allergen) that you breathe in, as a threat, and overreacts by releasing histamine and chemicals that typically cause symptoms. These symptoms can include a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, postnasal drip, congestion or stuffiness, decreased sense of smell, itching, eye irritation, and even headaches.
Common allergens include tree and grass pollens, animal dander, dust mites, and molds. Some of these allergens cause seasonal symptoms while others can cause reactions throughout the year depending and when they are present. The severity and combination of allergic rhinitis symptoms is different in every patient. When severe, allergic rhinitis can contribute to chronic sinusitis, nasal polyps, and worsening of asthma and reactive airway disease.
A thorough history of exposures and related reactions is essential to the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. When the condition is more severe, specialized allergy testing in the form of skin testing or blood work performed by an Allergy/Immunology specialist is necessary. These tests can objectively determine which allergens may be causing your symptoms and help guide our determination of individualized treatment options.
Treatment is dependent upon severity. When possible, it starts with avoidance strategies to minimize exposure to known triggers and modifying your environment. A wide array of safe and effective medications may also be used to control allergy symptoms, including nasal steroid sprays and oral/nasal antihistamines. New scientific evidence shows that a combination of topical medications may provide increased symptom relief by decreasing inflammation and histamine effects in the nose at the same time. Furthermore, nasal saline irrigations and other oral medications such as leukotriene inhibitors can be beneficial. Your physicians at the New York Sinus Institute will work to tailor your medical therapy to your specific symptoms along with your allergist when necessary.
When medical therapy fails, allergy shots are a potential cure for allergic rhinitis and can be useful in controlling allergy symptoms. A newer method of immunotherapy which is gaining increased interest is called sublingual immunotherapy whereby the patient self-administers drops or a tablet containing the allergen(s) are under the tongue. If you are a possible candidate, we will work closely with an Allergy/Immunology specialist to monitor your progress.