Allergic rhinitis, often called allergies or hay fever, occurs when the immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe “you are allergic” to them. Your immune system by a mistake attacks the particles in your body, causing symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose. The particles are called allergens, which simply means they can cause an allergic reaction.
People with allergies usually have symptoms for many years. You may have symptoms often during the year, or just at certain times. You also may get other problems such as sinusitis and ear infections as a result of your allergies.
In most cases, when you have allergic rhinitis:
Pollens from trees, grasses, and weeds cause allergic rhinitis. Many people have allergies to dust mites, animal dander, cockroaches, and mold as well. Things in the workplace, such as cereal grain, wood dust, chemicals, or lab animals, can also cause allergic rhinitis.
If you are allergic to pollens, the seasonal allergens, you may have symptoms only at certain times of the year. If you are allergic to dust mites and indoor allergens, you may have symptoms all the time.
To find out if you have allergies, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you. Knowing what symptoms you have, when you get them, and what makes them worse or better can help your doctor know whether you have allergies or another problem.
If you have severe symptoms, you may need to have allergy tests to find out what you are allergic to.
One of the best things you can do is to avoid the things that cause your allergies. You may need to clean your house often to get rid of dust, animal dander, or molds. Or you may need to stay indoors when pollen counts are high.
Unless you have another health problem, such as asthma, you may take over-the-counter medicines to treat your symptoms at home. If you do have another problem, talk to your doctor first. Others who also should talk to their doctor before starting self-treatment include older adults, children, and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.
If your allergies bother you a lot and you cannot avoid the things you are allergic to, immunotherapy (such as allergy shots or allergy drops) may help prevent or reduce your symptoms. To have this treatment, you first need to know what you are allergic to.
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