Your Health A-Z

Allergic rhinitis

Breathing air that contains an allergen causes allergic rhinitis, the most common respiratory allergy. It often begins around the age of two years, but the most common age when this allergy to airborne substances begins is the late teens or early 20s.

Allergic rhinitis is also sometimes called hay fever. Other respiratory allergies include those that affect the sinuses (allergic sinusitis), bronchial tubes (asthma) and lungs (hypersensitive pneumonitis).

Allergic rhinitis is usually seasonal. The most common allergens are pollens, grass or weed seeds spread by the wind. Hay fever is therefore a misleading name, since it is not caused by hay (it also does not produce fever). Perennial allergic rhinitis, which occurs all year round, is usually a reaction to indoor allergens such as moulds, dust and dust mites, as well as animal dander.

Dander is the flakes of dried animal skin, saliva and urine that cause an allergic reaction. Sometimes it is wrongly assumed that people who are allergic to pets are allergic to their fur or hair.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis are worse when the specific allergen is present and may grow worse over a number of years. Sometimes symptoms lessen slightly with age. The symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:

  • Continuous sneezing, especially after waking up in the morning;
  • Runny nose and a postnasal drip;
  • Stuffy nose, which may be accompanied by frequent sniffing;
  • Watery eyes that are also itchy;
  • Itchy ears, nose and throat;
  • Continuous rubbing of nose (in children);
  • “Allergic shiners” – dark circles under the eyes;
  • Discomfort in the facial area;
  • Irritability;
  • Tiredness or loss of energy

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.