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1 written by Harvard Medical School Nasal Allergies

2 If your symptoms occur year-round (perennial allergic rhinitis), the cause is most likely indoor allergens, such as dust mites, mold, or animal dander. If you have asthma, allergens that trigger nasal allergies can increase your risk of a flare-up. Common Outdoor Allergens Nasal allergies, which are sometimes called allergic rhinitis, occur when you breathe in airborne allergens. These are substances that kick your immune system into high gear. Nasal allergies sometimes go by the name hay fever. Symptoms Symptoms of nasal allergies usually occur shortly after exposure to the problem allergen. Symptoms include: A stuffy, runny nose. Sneezing. A post-nasal drip that can trigger coughing. An itchy or sore throat. Itchy, burning, watery, or bloodshot eyes. The causes of nasal allergies vary. Seasonal allergies occur during certain times of the year and are caused by certain pollens: Spring nasal allergies are most likely due to tree pollen. Summer symptoms are most likely due to grass and weed pollen. Symptoms in late summer or the fall are usually caused by ragweed. Oak family, elm, western red cedar, ash, birch, poplar, hickory, sycamore, maple family, walnut, and cypress. Ragweed family, tumbleweed, sagebrush (mugwort), pigweed, cockleweed, and Russian thistle. Timothy, orchard, sweet vernal, Bermuda, sour dock, redtop, bluegrass, and johnson grass. Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium. Trees Weeds Grasses Molds Whether you have mild hay fever or a year-round condition, the first step is to find out what triggers your allergies. 2 3

3 Treatment Avoid allergy triggers If you have seasonal nasal allergies, these steps can help when pollen counts are high: Use air conditioners instead of fans, which bring in outside air. Drive with the windows closed and air conditioner on. Common Indoor Allergens Cockroach and dust mite droppings. Cat or dog dander. Molds. Diagnosis Most people can tell if they have nasal allergies just by the symptoms. Whether you have mild hay fever or a year-round condition, the first step is to find out what triggers your allergies. You can start by keeping track of when, and under what conditions, your symptoms occur. For example, are your symptoms worse during certain times of the year? Do you start to have symptoms when you re around your pets, vacuuming, or when you wake up in the morning? When the cause seems unclear, your doctor may suggest skin testing. The prick test continues to be the test of choice for nasal allergies because it can identify specific allergens. When symptoms persist even with treatment, an ear, nose, and throat specialist can check for polyps and other nasal problems. Your doctor can also help you determine if your symptoms are not allergy related for example, exercise, eating, exposure to cold or dry air, air pollutants, or strong smells can trigger symptoms in some people. Limit outdoor activities. If you have to do yardwork, wear an N95 mask. Shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes afterward. Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible. For year-round rhinitis: If you must have a dog or cat, have it bathed weekly and try to keep it off furniture and out of the bedroom. Put pillows, box springs, and mattresses in sealed plastic covers to keep out dust mites. Wash bedding in hot water (above 120 F) to kill dust mites. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 40%. Remove carpeting from your bedroom. 4 5

4 Nasal allergies can set you back in many ways, causing you to avoid outdoor work or activities. For More Information Treatment Medication Except for very minor allergies, it s a good idea to treat your allergic rhinitis and not just suffer through it. There are a number of medications to choose from, and your doctor can help determine which makes sense for you. Antihistamines. These drugs block one of the chemicals released during an allergic reaction. You can buy many of these without a prescription. Nasal sprays and eye drops. Antihistamines and steroids (which reduce inflammation) can provide relief directly to affected areas through prescription nasal sprays and eye drops. Decongestants. These drugs reduce swelling in the nasal passages, but they can cause problems for people with high blood pressure or heart problems, and in general should not be used long term. Allergy shots can help some nasal allergy sufferers, but most doctors reserve them for patients who don t respond well to medication. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (414) American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (847) Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ASTHMA ( ) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (866) Nasal allergies can set you back in many ways, causing you to avoid outdoor work or activities. To reduce hay fever symptoms, start taking your allergy medicines several weeks before you think your allergy season will start. Studies suggest that this is more effective than waiting until symptoms start. Also, make sure you take steps to reduce exposure to your allergens. 6 7

5 To learn more about nasal allergies, visit the Patient Education Center at Brought to you by: Patient Education Center 2127 Second Avenue North Fort Dodge, IA About This Brochure: This brochure was written by practicing physicians from Harvard Medical School. It is part of a series developed and distributed by the Patient Education Center. All the information in this brochure and on the associated Web site ( is intended for educational use only; it is not intended to provide, or be a substitute for, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Only a physician or other qualified health care professional can provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your physician on all matters of your personal health. Harvard Medical School, the Patient Education Center, and its affiliates do not endorse any products. Consulting Physician: Anthony L. Komaroff, MD Editorial Director: Keith D Oria Creative Director: Jon Nichol Copyright Harvard Medical School. Printed on 10% post-consumer recycled paper. PEC-PC-NAS-003

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