IF somebody has a running nose or sneezing, it sounds to be a trivial problem. But for the individual affected it is very distressing. Some people have this problem repeatedly, mostly due to allergy, a condition called as allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis is the name given to variety of symptoms which develop after exposure of a, “sensitive”, person to potential allergy producing substances called allergens. These enter the body most commonly through inhalation via the nose and cause swelling and inflammation of nasal mucosa.
The common symptoms include, sneezing and running of nose. The nose may become blocked due to drying of secretions. There may be associated sense of itching inside nose, redness of nose, redness and watering of eyes. One may also feel pain, itching and discomfort inside the ear as ear is anatomically connected to the nose internally. In addition if somebody develops superadded infection, fever also occurs adding to the misery.
All these problems occur in individuals who have developed antibodies to some allergens. They are sensitized to those substances and on further exposure, allergic reaction occurs in the body, producing sneezing and other symptoms.
Some of these persons may have associated skin rashes, allergic cough and or bronchial asthma also, either in self or some family member.
A person may have allergic rhinitis throughout the year or it may occur with change of season. This is because with change of season, the potential allergens may be present in the environment.
There is a wide variety of substances which serve as allergens and produce allergic rhinitis in the person. Air borne pollens of plants, spores of moulds, insect droppings, dust, inhaled chemicals as in room fresheners, deodorants and perfumes, e.t.c., all these can induce allergic rhinitis in persons who have a tendency for it.
Majority of the affected people do not understand the nature of their illness. They go to hospitals, consult doctors and undergo many tests many times in the hope of seeking cure. But there is no cure available for them because the problem is inherently present in the body.
Allergy tests can be done to identify the substances causing allergy, then if possible one can be desensitized and treated. But the problem is that allergy tests can be done only when the individual is free of symptoms, without any medication for at least 48 hours. Otherwise, there is risk of the problems being aggravated and a severe reaction causing death.
Even if the potential allergens are identified, majority of them are such that they cannot be avoided. Dust, pollens or spores in the environment are things which cannot be prevented totally by anyone.
But there are measures which can minimize the suffering of an individual. Use of a face mask to cover the nose when exposed to dust can reduce the amount of allergens inhaled. If affordable, air conditioners can be installed at home and work place as they reduce the amount of dust and spores present and can also filter out pollens.
Steam inhalation is a simple economical measure which can be done very easily at home and helps in reducing symptoms of a person suffering from allergic rhinitis. One only needs to boil water enough to produce steam and inhale it deeply till it cools. Steam inhalation done morning and evening keeps an individual having allergic rhinitis reasonably comfortable throughout the day.
Nasal decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are also used for this purpose but should not be used for long time regularly. When used for long they can cause hypertension.
Nasal puffs of sodium chromoglycate help in preventing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Anti allergic drugs and corticosteroids are used for treating allergic rhinitis. But one should use them only when absolutely necessary because they do not offer total cure and can produce adverse effects.
Breathing exercises of yoga (Pranayam) are very helpful in relieving the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. One can easily do them at home without spending any money.
Dr Pande is a specialist,