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Allergic rhinitis

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Allergic rhinitis may be:

  • seasonal (also called "hay fever")
    • caused by grass and tree pollen allergens, symptoms typically observed during the same time each year
  • perennial
    • caused by house dust mites and animals, symptoms occur right throughout the year
  • occupational
    • caused by allergens at the workplace e.g., flour allergy in a baker (1)

Allergic rhinitis can also be divided according to the severity and persistence of symptoms:

  • mild intermittent
  • moderate severe intermittent
  • mild persistent
  • moderate severe persistent (1)

It is characterised by:

  • rhinorrhoea
  • nasal blockage
  • sneezing attacks for longer than 1 hour per day lasting longer than 2 weeks
  • itching—eyes, nose
  • watery eyes
  • interference with sleep leading to daytime sleepiness (2)
  • malaise
  • headache (3)
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath (4)

Allergic rhinitis may coexist with asthma, eczema and chronic sinusitis. It occurs when an individual, previously exposed to an antigen, has made IgE antibodies to that antigen. The IgE is incorporated into the cell membranes of mast cells, and upon subsequent exposure to that antigen, the mast cells degranulate, releasing inflammatory mediators such as histamine and slow reacting substance of anaphylaxis (SRS-A) (1).


  1. Clinical knowledge summaries, safe practical clinical answers. Allergic rhinitis.
  2. Hoyte FCL, Nelson HS. Recent advances in allergic rhinitis. F1000Res. 2018;7: F1000 Faculty Rev-1333; published online 2018 Aug 23.
  3. Quillen D, Feller DB. Diagnosing rhinitis: allergic vs. nonallergic. Am Fam Physician 2006;73(9):1583–1590.
  4. MeReC bulletin (2004);14(5):17–20.

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