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Nasal allergy

Nasal allergies are a very common type of allergy that can affect both children and adults. Also referred to as allergic rhinitis, nasal allergies can be annoying and significantly affect your quality of life, so understanding what’s causing your nasal allergy is important.

What is a nasal allergy?

A nasal allergy is a condition that affects the tissues on the inside of the nose, causing inflammation and swelling.

Most of the time, a nasal allergy causes mild symptoms. But for some, their symptoms become more severe or long-term and may affect their day to day life and ability to get a restful night’s sleep, concentrate at work or school and can make them feel run-down.

Some nasal allergies are seasonal, but others are perennial, meaning that they’re a year round problem, such as allergies to house dust mites.

What are the symptoms of a nasal allergy?

What doctors term allergic rhinitis is more commonly known as hay fever. Allergy is a major factor in nasal symptoms, although you can have problems with your nose that are not due to allergy.

Common symptoms are:

  • A blocked or stuffy nose
  • An itchy nose
  • Persistent sneezing and/or coughing
  • A sore or ‘itchy’ throat
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Possibly headaches

Long-term nasal allergies can cause fatigue from constant broken sleep. Some nasal allergies are accompanied by having allergies elsewhere such as the skin. This may manifest as hives, eczema or dermatitis and give rise to dry, itchy, weeping skin.

What causes a nasal allergy?

A nasal allergy is triggered when you come into something in the air that you’re allergic to, called an allergen. Common airborne allergens include:

  • Pollen – either from grass, weeds or trees
  • Mould spores
  • House dust mites
  • Animal dander (dead skin cells and hair), usually from a cat or a dog
  • The urine or saliva of certain animals

Symptoms often begin as soon as you’re exposed to the allergen. In people with nasal allergies, the immune system mistakenly responds to these allergens by releasing histamine, which causes symptoms such as a stuffy, runny nose and sneezing.

How is nasal allergy diagnosed?

Speaking to your GP or pharmacist about your symptoms will help them to diagnose a nasal allergy. Some are easy to diagnose, such as hay fever in the spring or summer, whilst other perennial nasal allergies can be more difficult.

Your doctor may refer you for some allergy tests to see if they can pinpoint your specific allergen(s). These tests may be skin prick tests or blood tests.

They may refer you to a specialist ENT surgeon who will assess you and your nose in detail to diagnose the cause and to initiate treatment.  This may involve looking in your nose with a small flexible endoscope.

How is a nasal allergy treated?

A known nasal allergy can be prevented by avoiding your allergen, but this isn’t always easy. For example, if you have a dust mite or pet allergy, keeping your house clean and airy or avoiding having a pet will be helpful. But if you have a pollen allergy, this will be difficult to avoid completely.

However, since avoiding allergens isn’t always simple, your GP or pharmacist can recommend non-drowsy antihistamine tablets that can help to manage your symptoms. For more severe symptoms, your GP may be able to prescribe a corticosteroid nasal spray or drops that will help to reduce swelling and inflammation in your nose.

For the most severe cases, a desensitisation therapy called immunotherapy can be useful.  This is a specialist service and will need thorough assessment prior to referral for immunotherapy.

If you’re unsure what treatment you should go for, or the above treatments don’t work for you, our team of expert specialists are here to help.

Find your specialist in nasal allergy at King Edward VII's Hospital

Need some help?
Call 020 7467 4344

Our team is available to take your call Mon - Fri - 8am – 6pm

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