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Allergic Rhinitis (Allergies)

Blowing your nose and rubbing your itchy eyes? You might have allergic rhinitis, an allergic reaction to substances you have inadvertently inhaled. There are two main types:

  • Seasonal allergic rhinitis (commonly called seasonal allergies or hay fever) is caused by seasonal increases in levels of tree, grass and weed pollens.
  • Perennial allergic rhinitis is an allergic response that can happen at any time of the year. Its causes include a variety of substances, many of them found indoors: dust mites, mold, pet dander or even cockroaches. 

Is it allergic rhinitis or the common cold?

It’s easy to confuse allergies with colds. Both are common and both cause runny noses, sneezing and postnasal drip. But they are completely unrelated conditions.

Here are the main differences between them:

  • Not all of the symptoms are the same: Colds cause fevers and mild body aches. Allergic rhinitis does not.
  • Mucus caused by allergies tends to remain thin and clear. Mucus caused by colds is often thick and yellow or green.
  • A cold is a virus, which is contagious. Because allergies are immune reactions to the environment, they cannot be spread from one person to another.
  • People with colds typically recover within a couple of weeks. Without treatment, allergy sufferers endure symptoms for as long as they're exposed to the allergen.

How can I get help for allergic rhinitis?

These symptoms are commonly associated with allergic rhinitis:

  • Sneezing or other cold-like symptoms that last more than 10 days without a fever
  • Frequent throat clearing, hoarseness, coughing or wheezing
  • Watery or itchy eyes that last more than 10 days
  • Repeated ear and sinus infections
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Dark circles under the eyes (which can result from congested blood flow near the sinuses)

If you have these symptoms, call your primary care doctor or an allergy specialist. At your visit, your doctor may perform tests to determine which specific substances are causing your allergies.

Care for allergic rhinitis at Rush

If you have a diagnosis of allergic rhinitis, your care at Rush might involve one or more of the following:

  • Allergy testing to determine which substances are causing your allergies — so you can avoid them
  • Antihistamines to help treat acute (short-term) symptoms
  • Corticosteroids, usually in a nasal spray, which can effectively fight long- and short-term symptoms
  • Other types of medications, such as decongestants to help relieve short-term nasal congestion or leukotriene inhibitors to block the symptom-causing chemicals your body releases in response to allergens
  • Allergy shots, also called allergen immunotherapy, which can help your body become more resistant to some allergens

Why choose Rush for allergic rhinitis care

  • Doctors at Rush are also researchers looking for new ways to control allergies. This means they can offer some patients treatments that might not be widely available.
  • This research can also lead to discoveries that inform care. For example, doctors at Rush recently found that the likelihood of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) was more than two times higher in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Departments and programs that treat this condition