Allergic rhinitis - self-care

Alternate Names

Hay fever - self-care; Seasonal rhinitis - self-care

Description

Allergic rhinitis is a group of symptoms that affect your nose. They occur when you breathe in something you are allergic to, such as dust, animal dander, insect venom, or pollen.

Allergic rhinitis is called hay fever when it is caused by plant pollen and other outdoor particles.

Avoid Your Triggers

Things that make allergies worse are called triggers. It may be impossible to completely avoid all triggers, but you can do many things to limit your or your child’s exposure to them:

Some changes you may need to make:

  • Install furnace filters or other air filters.
  • Remove furniture and carpets from your floors.
  • Use a dehumidifier to dry the air in your house.
  • Change where your pets sleep and eat.
  • Avoid certain outdoor tasks.
  • Change how you clean your house.

The amount of pollen in the air can affect whether hay fever symptoms develop. More pollen is in the air on hot, dry, windy days. On cool, damp, rainy days, most pollen is washed to the ground.

Medicines for Allergic Rhinitis

Antihistamines are medicines that work well for treating allergy symptoms. They are often used when symptoms do not occur very often or do not last very long.

  • Many can be bought as a pill, capsule, or liquid without a prescription.
  • Older antihistamines can cause sleepiness. They may affect a child's ability to learn and make it unsafe for adults to drive or use machinery.
  • Newer antihistamines cause little or no sleepiness or learning problems.

Antihistamine nasal sprays work well for treating allergic rhinitis. You may want to try them first, before taking a pill.

Decongestants are drugs that dry up your nasal passages. They may help dry up a runny or stuffy nose. They come as pills, liquids, capsules, or nasal sprays. You can buy them without a prescription.

  • You can use them along with antihistamine pills or liquids.
  • Do not use nasal spray decongestants for more than 3 days in a row.
  • Talk to your child’s health care provider before giving your child decongestants.
  • Nasal corticosteroid spraysare the most effective treatment. Many brands are available, and you will need a prescription for them.
  • They work best when you use them every day.
  • It may take 2 or more weeks of steady use for your symptoms improve the most.
  • They are safe for children and adults.

Nasal Wash

For mild allergic rhinitis, a nasal wash can help remove mucus from your nose. You can buy a saline spray at a drugstore or make one at home. To make one, use 1 cup of warm water, 1/2 a teaspoon of salt, and a pinch of baking soda.

When to Call the Doctor

Make an appointment with your health care provider if:

  • You have severe allergy or hay fever symptoms.
  • Your symptoms do not get better when you treat them.
  • You are wheezing or coughing more.

References

Wallace DV, Dykewicz MS, Bernstein DI, Blessing-Moore J, Cox L, Khan DA, et al. The diagnosis and management of rhinitis: an updated practice parameter. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Aug:122(2).

Greiner AN, Hellings PW, Rotiroti G, Scadding GK. Allergic rhinitis. Lancet. 2011 Dec 17;378(9809):2112-22. Epub 2011 Jul 23.


Review Date: 6/28/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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