Allergic rhinitis, often called allergies or hay fever, occurs when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe. The particles are called allergens, which simply means they can cause an allergic reaction. Your immune system attacks the particles in your body, causing symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose.
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. Over time, allergens may begin to affect you less, and your symptoms may not be as severe as they had been.
In most cases, when you have allergic rhinitis:
People can be allergic to:
If you are allergic to pollens, 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.
If you have severe symptoms, you may need to have allergy tests to find out what you are allergic to.
There is no cure for allergic rhinitis. 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 moulds. 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. Before starting self-treatment, older adults, children, and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should first speak to their doctor.
If your allergies bother you a lot and you cannot avoid the things you are allergic to, you and your doctor can decide if you should get allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help control your symptoms.
Finding the treatment that works best for you may take time.