Allergic rhinitis, sometimes called seasonal allergy or hay fever, is estimated to affect 30 to 40 percent of the population worldwide. This happens when you are exposed to a substance that you are allergic to, which then triggers cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, red and watery eyes, and a runny or blocked nose. In some cases, the condition can give rise to complications that include nasal congestion, clogged ears, decreased sense of smell, puffy eyes, headache, fatigue, and irritability.
Research shows that allergic rhinitis is a significant contributor to an affected person’s absenteeism rate and reduced productivity levels. According to a cross-sectional study conducted in 2012, the condition causes 3.6 days of absences for each affected person and cuts productivity by 2.6 hours for every workday that a person is exhibiting symptoms. The impact of allergic rhinitis extends far beyond the discomfort, inconveniences, and health issues that it causes individuals, as it also leaves its mark on businesses and the economy at large.
How to Prevent Allergic Rhinitis
If you’re someone who suffers from seasonal allergies, it’s in your best interest to take steps to reduce the occurrence of allergic rhinitis. Here’s how you can do just that:
Avoid Substances That Trigger the Allergic Reaction
Allergic rhinitis takes place when the body comes in contact with an allergen. This interaction triggers the release of histamine, which causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction as a result. For many people, allergic rhinitis can take place when they are exposed to the following:
- Pollen from vegetation, including trees and weeds
- Animal hair and dander or dead skin cells
- Dust mites, wood dust or flour dust
- Mould spores
To prevent episodes, then, the first course of action is to avoid the substances that trigger the reaction in the first place. If you’re allergic to pollen, for example, make it a goal to stay indoors during peak pollen hours. At the same time, keep your doors and windows closed and avoid line drying your clothes during this period as the pollen can settle on them. If you need to go outside, wear a mask and take a bath once you come home to get rid of the pollen that may have gotten stuck on your clothes.
Minimising your exposure to dust mites can be done by making your home unwelcoming to these microscopic bugs. You can do this by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter when cleaning your home and opting to wet mop your floors instead of just sweeping. And if you have a pet and interacting with them causes allergy flare-ups, make sure to wash your hands after playing with your dog or cat, bathe them regularly, and maintain a generally clean environment to minimise your exposure to pet hair and dander.
Be Aware of Environmental Factors That Can Affect Allergen Distribution
It’s a good idea to be mindful of the external factors that may increase the amount of pollen outdoors. Pollen can spread quite easily during hot, dry, and windy days, but these particles tend to stick to the ground on cold or wet days as well. Taking special precautions during days when pollen could be especially prevalent can help you reduce the risk of a flare-up of allergic rhinitis.
If you’re already suffering from allergic rhinitis, you should be aware of the substances that can exacerbate the symptoms of the condition. Exposure to cigarette smoke, wood smoke, fumes, air pollution, and perfumes, for example, can worsen the existing symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Environmental factors like excess humidity, strong winds, and cold temperatures can also make your symptoms more noticeable.
Carry Medications That Can Control the Symptoms of Allergic Rhinitis
Prevention is much better than cure, but there are days when there’s no escaping the substances that trigger allergic reactions. The best you can do during these times is to ensure that you’re prepared to mitigate the symptoms as soon as possible. The good news is that there are plenty of over-the-counter medications that can address allergic rhinitis. You can take antihistamines, for example, to block the production of histamines, which signals the body to manifest the symptoms of an allergic reaction. It’s also an option to take decongestants, eye drops and sprays to address specific symptoms.
Determine If Immunotherapy Is an Option for Your Condition
Immunotherapy, sometimes called desensitisation, is a long-term treatment plan that aims to reduce a person’s immune response to particular allergens over time. If you have severe allergies, consult your doctor if this is an option for you. Take note that the process of developing tolerance to your allergens can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years, and it often takes a year before the effects of the treatment become noticeable. However, immunotherapy can offer allergic rhinitis patients the chance to significantly reduce or even eliminate the impact of their triggers on their body and their daily lives.
Common as it may be, allergic rhinitis can still place a lot of burden on the person suffering from it. If the symptoms of the condition fail to subside after a few days or if it’s causing you discomfort to the point that it’s interfering with the fulfilment of your everyday tasks and responsibilities, do not hesitate to consult with a doctor. You can get the opinion of your family or general physician or see a specialist such as an allergist or an otolaryngologist in order to determine the best course of action for your case.
To aid your physician, it’s also a good idea to keep a record of your triggers and other factors that play a role in allergic rhinitis flare-ups. With their assistance and by following the practical advice on this list, you’ll have an easier time preventing the occurrence of seasonal allergies.