Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever) - Symptoms & Causes

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis, commonly known as hay fever, is an inflammation in the nose as a result of the body’s reaction to environmental allergens in the air. It is particularly common in children and adolescents, causing symptoms such as clear runny nose, postnasal drip, sneezing and nasal itch.

If left untreated, allergic rhinitis can lead to:

  • Poor sleep quality
  • Poor concentration
  • Increased tiredness
  • Daytime sleepiness

What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Blocked and stuffy nose
  • Cough from postnasal drip
  • Runny nose with clear discharge
  • Snoring and dry mouth when sleeping
  • Sudden and repeated sneezing, especially in the morning
  • Watery or itchy eyes

Every individual reacts to allergens differently. Some may experience symptoms very often, while others may occasionally experience very mild symptoms.

What causes allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is caused by environmental allergens which can be present throughout the year or seasonally.

Perennial allergic rhinitis

Refers to allergic rhinitis that happens all year round. It can be caused by:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • House dust mite allergies. This is the most common cause of allergic rhinitis in Singapore.
  • Other indoor allergens. Examples include mould and animal dander.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis

Refers to allergic rhinitis that occurs seasonally. It can be caused by:

  • Haze. During periods of haze, your symptoms may worsen due to irritant particles in the air.
  • Pollen allergies. Also known as hay fever, this condition is more common in temperate countries.

What are the risk factors for allergic rhinitis?

You may have a higher risk of developing allergic rhinitis if you have:

  • Eczema
  • Allergies or asthma
  • Close family members with a history of allergies or asthma
  • Frequent exposure to allergens such as cigarette smoke, mould, chemicals, animal dander or house dust mites

Possible complications include:

  • Affected quality of life. Symptoms can interfere with daily activities and decrease productivity.
  • Poor sleep quality. It may be harder to fall asleep or stay asleep, which can lead to fatigue.
  • Worsening asthma symptoms. These include coughing or wheezing.
  • Sinusitis. This is an infection or inflammation of the membrane that lines the sinuses due to prolonged sinus congestion.
  • Middle ear infection. An allergy can cause swelling around the Eustachian tube, which connects the back of the nose and the middle ear. Swelling of the Eustachian tube can obstruct the drainage of the air space in the middle ear, and lead to a build-up of fluid. This fluid build-up in the middle ear can become infected.

How do you prevent allergic rhinitis?

The best way to avoid allergic rhinitis is to reduce your exposure to the allergens causing their symptoms.

If your doctor has prescribed allergy medications, take the medication before you are exposed to allergens, as directed by your doctor.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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