Rhinitis is the inflammation of nasal passages, which can cause a host of irritating symptoms. These include sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, runny nose, and postnasal drip. Rhinitis can occur when a respiratory tract infection, like the common cold is present. It can also be caused by allergies. Approximately 20% of people are affected by allergic rhinitis. It can begin at any age and the severity of symptoms often wax and wane throughout life.
So, what is the cause of allergic rhinitis? It is a nasal reaction to small airborne particles called allergens. This reaction activates two types of inflammatory cells in our bodies, called mast cells and basophils. These cells in turn produce histamine, an inflammatory substance causing congestion, itching, sneezing, and runny nose. Some allergens like pollens, produce seasonal allergic rhinitis. Other allergens like pet dander or dust mites produce year-around allergic rhinitis.
Treatments for this condition include nasal irrigation and saline sprays, nasal steroids (Flonase or Nasocort) and antihistamines (Zyretc, Claritin or Allegra). Systemic steroid injections (aka kenalog shot) can be used up to 3 times per year to help with symptoms, as well. These medications often provide excellent relief. However, if symptoms continue to persist or even worsen over time, then immunotherapy is recommended.
The goal of immunotherapy is to reduce sensitivity to allergens. The first step in this process is an initial allergy consult at our clinic. Then allergy testing is completed, a simple procedure where allergens are introduced just under the skin with plastic applicators. The test is given and results are read in under an hour. We then compound serum for the patient and immunotherapy can begin. It is delivered via two routs, either subcutaneous (under the skin) injections or sublingual (under the tongue) drops. This is not a “quick fix” for allergies. Rather, it is long term treatment (2-3 year minimum) to help resolve the cause of allergy symptoms. 80% of patients respond well to this treatment, allowing them to decrease use of allergy medications, minimizing irritating allergy symptoms, and reduce frequent illnesses. Insurance often covers the cost of testing and immunotherapy. If you are interested, please call our clinic for more information 928-668-1833.