Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms, Causes And Diagnosis

Also known as hay fever, allergic rhinitis is your body's response to certain allergens. The most common allergen that causes rhinitis is pollen, which is found in the air. Rhinitis is a common, treatable condition. It's typically controlled the use of nasal sprays, eye drops, and anti-histamines. If you or a loved one suspects you have rhinitis, here's what you need to know.


Not everyone will have the exact same symptoms of rhinitis. However, if you find yourself sneezing, having itchy, stuffy, or watery nose, or eyes, these may be symptoms of rhinitis. Some individuals also experience other symptoms, such as fatigue, as a result of their body's allergic response. Because certain allergens, such as pollen, are higher at certain times of year, many people find that their rhinitis is worse during the fall. The degree of your symptoms will depend on the severity of your allergic response. You'll notice your symptoms are more intense immediately after coming in contact with the allergen in question. 

What Causes It

For most people, coming in contact with substances like pollen cause no problem at all. However for others, it causes your body to release a chemical called histamine. This substance helps your body defend itself and gets activated in response to the allergen. It's this release of histamine that causes the symptoms associated with rhinitis. Pollen isn't the only allergen that causes rhinitis, pet dander is another major cause. Dander is the term for dead skin cells that animals shed. The dander is lifted into the air, inhaled by you and your body reacts by releasing histamine. Grass, dust and cat saliva are other causes of rhinitis. 

Risk Factors

Unfortunately, anyone can be affected by rhinitis, however, there are some risk factors. There is a genetic component to allergic responses, so if you have a family member who has rhinitis, it increases your risk of having it. Some factors increase your risk of experiencing symptoms, such as cigarette smoke, humidity, high wind -- if you're allergic to pollen -- and air pollution. 

How It's Diagnosed

If you suspect that you may have rhinitis, you may be wondering how it's diagnosed. Fortunately, rhinitis is easy for your doctor to diagnose. You'll need to go in for an exam and your doctor will perform allergy test, most commonly the skin prick test, to determine whether you're suffering from rhinitis. The skin prick test involves pricking your skin with the allergen and watching for a reacting in the form of small red bumps. Your doctor can also employ a variety of blood tests if necessary. Check with a facility like Northwest Asthma & Allergy Center PS for more information.