Nasal Irritation And How It Relates To Seasonal Allergies
Nasal Irritation Overview
Your nose is the first part of the body that detects seasonal changes if you suffer from seasonal allergies. Nasal irritation is a very common symptom of allergy rhinitis or hay fever that is triggered by an outdoor allergen, most probable pollen from various trees, plants, weeds, etc. The word ‘Rhinitis’ actually means ‘nose inflammation.’ The nose contains a fluid called mucus. This fluid is usually thin and transparent. It helps shield the lungs from dust, waste, and allergens. Mucus traps pollutants such as pollen, dust, dander, and bacteria as well as viruses.
Normally, the mucus produced in our nose is drained back into the throat and is unnoticeable because it is thin and small in quantity. When mucus in our nose traps an allergen, our nose gets inflamed, and more of the mucus is produced, which becomes thick and yellowish. Nasal irritation due to seasonal allergies causes both the front and the back of the nose to flow. The compounds in the mucus irritate the end of the throat, causing cough. When more mucus drains at the back of the throat, it results in postnasal drips.
As soon as an allergen triggers an individual, he would show the following rhinitis symptoms that include:
- Itching and uneasiness in the eyes and nose
- Stuffy nose (congestion)
- Runny nose, watery eyes
- No sense of smell
- Mucus (phlegm) in the throat (postnasal drip)
Symptoms that may develop after a few days:
- Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- Blocked ears and decreased sense of smell
- Sore throat
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Puffiness or swelling under the eyes
- Fatigue and irritability
Blocking of the nose and coughing due to seasonal allergies can lead to wheezing in the chest and eventually asthma in severe cases or people already suffering from asthmatic conditions. Other disorders related to allergy may also get triggered, such as eczema, nasal polyps, or sinusitis.
When an outdoor allergen such as pollen gets intact with the body of a person who is sensitive to it, the body’s immune system overreacts. Antibodies attached to the nasal cavity contacts with the allergen and respond by releasing histamine and other chemicals and substances that cause the minor blood vessels in the nose to produce more mucus in defense of the allergen causing nasal irritation. Rhinitis can last for weeks to months after the exposure of the allergen.
Some of the common allergens that cause nasal irritation due to seasonal allergies are:
- Birch pollen: This pollen is a common allergen in the spring and may cause nasal irritation in people allergic to it.
- Oak pollen: Oaktree also send pollen in the air in spring
- Grass pollen: Grass pollen is common in the summer months.
- Ragweed pollen: Ragweed is the most common allergen among the weeds and is most active during the spring and fall seasons.
How to Differentiate Seasonal Nasal Irritation from Common Cold
You would have noticed that the symptoms of seasonal nasal allergies or allergy rhinitis are the same as that of a common cold, so how would you likely differentiate between the two? The signs noticeable for Allergy Rhinitis are:
- You would notice the symptoms during the pollen seasons.
- You usually have the same symptoms at the same time of the year.
- Symptoms of allergic rhinitis or hay fever for each pollen last up to 6-8 weeks, whereas common cold lasts 1-3 weeks.
- Nasal irritations with seasonal allergies are followed by eye irritation. It is not seen in colds.
- Colds may cause fever with a sore throat. Allergies do not bring fever.
- Cough is less common in allergies but still some notice along with watery eyes and nose in both.
Treating Nasal Irritation At Home
Seasonal allergies can sometimes be unavoidable and cause various discomforts, but some minor symptoms can be treated at home:
- Nasal irrigation: Nasal irrigation with warm saline water opens your clogged airways by diluting the dense mucus and leads to flush out other irritants that had been stuck within the nose. This is a pretty safe way to clear a stuffed clogged nose if appropriately handled.
- Steam: Steam inhalation involves breathing in moist and warm vapors that thin down the phlegm consistency to make it easier to extract inflammatory compounds from the mast cells and even reduce the secretion of them.
- Stringing Nettel and honey tea: Stringing Nettel has been used for centuries to cure nasal irritation symptoms due to seasonal allergies or allergy rhinitis. It works by limiting the release of histamines, which is the leading cause of the reaction and provides quick relief from sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, and itching.
You can also try other home or natural remedies and by improving your diet. Consume probiotics and a Vitamin C rich diet increase immunity and release some of the symptoms.
One of the safest ways is to eliminate contact with nasal irritants (allergens). Try using over-the-counter or prescribed medications if complete avoidance is not satisfactory or possible:
- Antihistamines are taken by the mouth or in the nose. Sneezing and itching in the nose and eyes can be released by using antihistamines. They also help to treat runny nose and nasal stuffiness.
- Decongestants are taken by the mouth or in the nose, in the form of sprays or drops. They thin the nasal lining, which relieves the stuffiness of the nasal passages.
- Nasal corticosteroids are in the form of a nasal spray or inhalers. It decreases nasal irritation and blocks allergic reactions. It is an efficient form of treatment for allergic rhinitis because it can reduce all the symptoms, including inflammation in the nose. There are a few side effects of nasal corticosteroids that can be ignored.
- Cromolyn sodium is a nasal spray that prevents chemical release, including histamine and leukotrienes, which cause allergic reactions. This medication has no adverse effect and is advised four times a day.
- Immunotherapy There is no complete drug relief for people with allergies. They would be recommended for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a long-term procedure that may help avoid or mitigate the duration of allergic responses by adjusting the immune response to allergens and changing the course of allergic disease.
Nasal irritation is the foremost symptom of seasonal allergies, and the best way to avoid it is to limit exposure to allergens. However, complete evasion can be difficult. It can be treated at home as you see the early symptoms, while using saline water treatment to reduce inflammation and eliminate allergens in the nasal cavity. For severe symptoms, follow over the counter medicines or medical treatments.
Written by: Madiha Ather Hashmi (November 20, 2020)
- Harvard Men’s Health Watch (2010). “Allergic rhinitis: Your nose knows”. Harvard Health Publishing.
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (2015). “Rhinitis (Nasal Allergies)”. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
- Seattle Children’s Hospital (2020). “Nose Allergy (Hay Fever)”. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.
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Last Updated on July 5, 2023