If you sneeze a lot, if your nose is often runny or stuffy, or if your eyes, mouth or skin often feels itchy, you may have allergic rhinitis, a condition that affects 40 million to 60 million Americans.
Allergic rhinitis, like skin rashes and other allergies, develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people. Allergic rhinitis is commonly known as hay fever. But you don’t have to be exposed to hay to have symptoms. And contrary to what the name suggests, you don’t have to have a fever to have hay fever. Allergic rhinitis takes two different forms:
- Seasonal: Symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis can occur in spring, summer and early fall. They are usually caused by allergic sensitivity to airborne mold spores or to pollens from grass, trees and weeds.
- Perennial: People with perennial allergic rhinitis experience symptoms year-round. It is generally caused by dust mites, pet hair or dander, cockroaches or mold. Underlying or hidden food allergies rarely cause perennial nasal symptoms.
Some people may experience both types of rhinitis, with perennial symptoms getting worse during specific pollen seasons. There are also non allergic causes for rhinitis.