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Understanding Nasal Allergies

Nasal allergies (also called allergic rhinitis) are a common health problem. They may be seasonal.This means they cause symptoms only at certain times of the year. Or they may be perennial.This means they cause symptoms all year long. Other health problems, such as asthma, often occur along with allergies as well.

Cross section side view of head showing allergens entering nose, swollen nasal lining, and fluid dripping from nasal lining.

What Is an Allergic Reaction?

An allergy is a reaction to a substance called an allergen. Common allergens include:

  • Wind-borne pollen

  • Mold

  • Dust mites

  • Furry and feathered animals

  • Cockroaches, an insect found in many homes

Normally, allergens are harmless. But when a person has allergies, their body thinks they are harmful. Their body then attacks allergens with antibodies. Antibodies are attached to special cells called mast cells. Allergens stick to the antibodies. This makes the mast cells release histamine and other chemicals. This is an allergic reaction. The chemicals irritate nearby nasal tissue. This causes nasal allergy symptoms.

Common Nasal Allergy Symptoms

Allergies can cause nasal tissue to swell. This makes the air passages smaller. The nose may feel stuffed up. The nose may also make extra mucus, which can plug the nasal passages or drip out of the nose. Mucus can drip down the back of the throat (postnasal drip) as well. Sinus tissue can swell. This may cause pain and headache. Common allergy symptoms include:

  • Runny nose with clear, watery discharge

  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)

  • Postnasal drip

  • Sneezing

  • Red, watery eyes

  • Itchy nose, eyes, ears, and throat

  • Plugged-up ears (ear congestion)

  • Sore throat

  • Coughing

  • Sinus pain and swelling

  • Headache

It May Not Be Allergies

Other health problems can cause symptoms like those of nasal allergies. These can include:

  • Nonallergic rhinitis and viruses such as colds

  • Irritants and pollutants, such as strong odors or smoke

  • Certain medications

  • Changes in the weather

Treatment

Your doctor will evaluate you to find the cause of your symptoms. Treatment can then be planned as needed. You may also be referred to a specialist for treatment.

 

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