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Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever)

What is it?

Allergic rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose. It's usually caused by inhaling allergens, which are substances that trigger an allergic response. Common triggers include:

  • Outdoor allergens
    • Weeds, including ragweed, sagebrush and redroot pigweed
    • Grasses, including Timothy grass, Kentucky bluegrass and Johnson grasses
    • Trees, including walnut, oak and ash
    • Molds, including cladosporium and alternaria
  • Indoor allergens
    • Pet dander
    • Cockroach droppings
    • Dust mites
    • Smoke
    • Molds, including mucor, aspergillus and penicillium

Who is affected?

At least 35.9 million people in the United States have seasonal allergic rhinitis resulting in almost 16.7 million office visits to health care providers each year1,2

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms start almost immediately after exposure and last as long as you're exposed to the allergen. Symptoms may include:

  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Watery, itchy eyes

What can I do to prevent and treat It?

Take steps to reduce your exposure to allergens:

  • Vacuum and dust regularly.
  • Remove carpets from bedrooms and use throw rugs instead.
  • Use zippered, dust-proof covers for pillows, mattresses and box springs.
  • Confine the areas pets are allowed in and groom them outdoors.
  • Avoid smoke from any sources.
  • Dry clothes in a clothes dryer on a high setting.
  • Stay indoors when mold spore and pollen counts are at their peak.
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  • Wash off after outdoor activity to avoid bringing allergens into your home.

Over-the-counter (OTC)  medications can be used to treat symptoms:

Antihistamines help control allergies. Decongestants can reduce nasal blockage by narrowing blood vessels and allowing congestion to clear. Antihistamines and decongestants can be found separately or together in products and are available in various forms like eye drops, nose sprays, liquids and pills. They're also commonly included in treatment plans for bacterial sinus infections.

 

Examples of OTC medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of allergic rhinitis:

Symptoms Medications Active Ingredients*

Seasonal and year-round allergies:

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose or throat
  • Watering, itchy eyes
Antihistamine

Loratadine

Example: Alavert®

Diphenhydramine HCL

Chlorpheniramine Maleate

Cromolyn Sodium

Nasal congestion or "stopped-up" ears Nasal Decongestant

Pseudoephedrine

Example: Sudafed®

Pseudoephedrine Sulfate

Example: Drixoral Decongestant®

If you have high blood pressure, don't use products that contain decongestants for these symptoms (decongestants can raise blood pressure):

  • Minor aches, pains and headache, and to reduce the fever associated with colds or flu
  • Sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes from the common cold, hay fever or upper respiratory allergies

Anitihistamine

Pain Reliever

Acetaminophen, Chlorpheniramine Maleate

* Active ingredients in a medication produce a therapeutic response.

 


1 Nathan, R.A., Meltzer, E.O., Selner, J.C., Storms, W. "Prevalence of Allergic Rhinitis in the United States," Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (1997) 99:S808-14.

2 United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10, no. 13. 1999. Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Note: This information is intended to provide readers with health information. The information provided is not a substitute for consultation with a healthcare provider. Brand names included on this Web page are provided for examples only. Their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.