Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is an IgE-mediated inflammatory disorder of the nasal passages caused by the overreaction of the body’s immune system to inhaled allergens. Airborne allergens such as pollens, animal dander, mould and mites, interact with specific IgE antibodies on the surface of mast cells within the nose. The IgE-allergen interaction triggers the mast cells to release pro-inflammatory mediators such as histamine, which cause inflammation and swelling of the nasal mucosa.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can develop within minutes of inhaling an allergen. Common immediate symptoms include sneezing, increased mucous production (i.e. a runny nose), nasal itchiness, a post-nasal drip and itchy, red, watery eyes. Over time, individuals often develop nasal congestion due to chronic inflammation of the nasal passages (ASCIA, 2015).
Allergic rhinitis can be classified as intermittent or persistent, mild, moderate or severe. Intermittent allergic rhinitis is when an individual experiences symptoms for four or less days per week, and/or for less than four consecutive weeks at a time. Persistent allergic rhinitis is when symptoms occur more than 4 days per week, for more than 4 consecutive weeks (Cauwenberge, 2005).
Also taken into consideration when determining the severity of allergic rhinitis is the impact an individual’s symptoms have on their quality of life. That is, the degree to which an individual’s allergic rhinitis affects their ability to sleep, carry out activities of daily living, and go to work or to school.
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy [ASCIA]. 2015. Is it Allergic Rhinitis (hayfever)? Information for patients, consumers and carers. Accessed July 31, 2015, http://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_PCC_Is_it_allergic_rhinitis_2015.pdf
Cauwenberge, P. 2005. ARIA: impact of compliance. Clinical and Experimental Allergy Reviews 5, 1, 3-6.