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 mites, animal dander, or pollen.
Allergic rhinitis is also called hay fever.
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:
- Reduce dust and dust mites in the home.
- Control molds indoors and out.
- Avoid exposure to plant pollens and animals.
Some changes you may need to make include:
- Installing furnace filters or other air filters
- Removing furniture and carpets from your floors
- Using a dehumidifier to dry the air in your house
- Changing where your pets sleep and eat
- Avoiding certain outdoor tasks
- Changing 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
Nasal corticosteroid sprays are the most effective treatment. Many brands are available. You can buy some brands without a prescription. For other brands, you need a prescription.
- They work best when you use them every day.
- It may take 2 or more weeks of steady use for your symptoms to improve.
- They are safe for children and adults.
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. They are only available with a prescription.
Decongestants are medicines that help dry up a runny or stuffy nose. They come as pills, liquids, capsules, or nasal sprays. You can buy them over-the-counter (OTC), 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 decongestants to your child.
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 a nasal wash, use 1 cup (240 milliliters) of purchased distilled water, 1/2 a teaspoon (2.5 grams) of salt, and a pinch of baking soda.
When to Call the Doctor
Make an appointment with your 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.
Hay fever - self-care; Seasonal rhinitis - self-care; Allergies - allergic rhinitis - self-care
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Corren J, Baroody FM, Togias A. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 40.
Head K, Snidvongs K, Glew S, et al. Saline irrigation for allergic rhinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;6(6):CD012597. Published 2018 Jun 22. PMID: 29932206 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29932206/.
Seidman MD, Gurgel RK, Lin SY, et al. Clinical practice guideline: allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;152(1 Suppl):S1-S43. PMID: 25644617 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25644617/.
Review Date 4/9/2020
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.