Typical nasal symptoms include runny nose, blocked nose, sneezing, itchy nose, and post nasal drip. Non-nasal symptoms include itchy, tearing red eyes, itchy ears and palate, sore throat, cough, loss of smell, lack of sleep and irritability. These symptoms occur when the membrane that lines the nose and the back of the throat becomes swollen and inflamed and produces mucous because a person breathes in a trigger (or allergen) like house dust or pollen to which they have been previously exposed and sensitised.
When the allergen comes into contact with the membrane, it attaches to the allergy antibodies (called immunoglobulin E) on mast cells within the membrane, which starts the process of causing the area to become inflamed. It is the membrane inflammation that causes the typical symptoms. Common triggers include: pollen, cat dander, dog dander, house dust mites, cockroach and moulds. Allergic rhinitis tends to run in families.
The symptoms may be mild or severe, and some people suffer from allergic rhinitis all year round, especially if they are allergic to a persistent allergen like house dust mite. Seasonal allergic rhinitis typically occurs in people who are allergic to certain pollens. The symptoms, although not life threatening, may be severe enough to impact on sufferers’ quality of life, affecting sleep, social life, productivity and ability to concentrate at school or at work. Testing can be done for the trigger allergens. Skin Prick Tests and Specific IgE blood tests are typically used for testing.