Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is characterized by episodes of sniffling, sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and fatigue. It affects 10-30% of both children and adults, and it’s a significant cause of absence from work and school. Dr. Charles Song and Dr. Andrew Wong at the Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology are the experts at identifying your allergen sensitivities and providing an individualized treatment plan, including immunotherapy, to treat your allergic rhinitis. To schedule an appointment, call their office in Manhattan Beach, California, or use the online booking feature.
Allergic rhinitis is an overactive immune response to an airborne substance that’s normally harmless. This abnormal immune response results in the development of molecules called IgE antibodies which recognize specific allergens. Every time you encounter an allergen, your immune system releases histamine, a chemical that causes allergy symptoms.
Allergic rhinitis is triggered by airborne allergens which may be categorized as seasonal or perennial allergens.
When you have seasonal allergic rhinitis, your allergies may flare up in response to the specific allergens that are more prevalent during that time of year. In the spring season, tree pollens are predominant. Grass pollens are typically released in the summer, and in the fall, weed pollens such as ragweed prevail.
If you have perennial allergic rhinitis, you have symptoms throughout the year. This type of allergy is caused by dust mites, pet dander (arising from pelt or hair), and molds.
You may experience:
Allergic rhinitis causes nasal congestion and inflammation, which can precipitate a sinus infection or an ear infection. Children are especially susceptible to developing otitis media, a middle ear infection, while adults may be more likely to develop chronic sinusitis.
Nosebleeds often arise due to allergic rhinitis, while chronic inflammation can cause nasal polyps, which are soft growths inside your nose. If polyps grow large enough to block your nasal passages, they further increase your risk for sinus infections.
People with allergic rhinitis have a higher risk of developing asthma. They’re also more likely to develop migraine headaches compared to people who don’t have allergies.
In some cases, allergic rhinitis may be diagnosed based on your medical history showing an association between seasonal allergens and your symptoms. To determine the exact allergens, however, you’ll need a skin test or a blood test called an allergen-specific IgE test.
One of the first steps is managing your environment to reduce your exposure to the allergens that trigger your allergies. This may include steps such as keeping windows closed, running specialized HEPA air filters, using special dust-mite-proof bedding, or removing carpeting.
A variety of medications -- antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, and mast cell stabilizers -- in the form of pills, nasal sprays, and eye drops are available to treat your symptoms. These medications may help to reduce your allergy symptoms. However, if you want to prevent or even “cure” your allergies, you’ll need to consider immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy is a long-term treatment option for patients who have severe allergies, cannot control their symptoms with other treatments, or wish to “cure” their allergic disease. This treatment modality works by introducing small doses of an allergen to your body, and gradually increasing the dose with every subsequent administration.
Over time, your body’s immune system develops a tolerance to the allergens and is eventually no longer allergic. Immunotherapy is the only treatment option that changes your body’s abnormal immune response and effectively cures your allergic condition.
The most common and best-established form of immunotherapy is subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT, better known as allergy shots). Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is another emerging form of immunotherapy used extensively in Europe and other nations around the world. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has only approved SLIT for two allergens: grass pollen and ragweed pollen. As such, SLIT has not become a mainstay of treatment as compared to SCIT.
Dr. Song and Dr. Wong are experts in allergy immunotherapy and have treated thousands of patients suffering from allergic rhinitis. If you think you may have allergic rhinitis, don’t continue to suffer. Call the Song Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology or book an appointment online.