Allergies and Allergic Rhinitis: Detection and Mitigation Strategies

Allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to foreign substances known as allergens. These molecules can trigger reactions and are found in various substances such as pollen, dust, spores, molds, certain foods, specific materials, mites, and other insects.

Allergies can manifest in different forms depending on how the allergen is encountered, whether it is ingested, inhaled, or comes into direct contact with the skin. Specifically, pollen allergies impact the respiratory system and are closely tied to the seasons and the life cycles of plants. These plants release different types of pollen into the environment, and large amounts of this pollen can enter the airways.

Typically, this event has no significant consequences. However, for people with allergies, the release and dispersal of pollen are perceived by the immune system as harmful.

The typical symptoms of seasonal allergies include itching in the nose and eyes, coughing, fatigue, and a stuffy nose. The most common ailment associated with this is allergic rhinitis, also known as ‘hay fever’, which in more severe cases can lead to asthma attacks.


Allergic rhinitis is more than just a common cold


Impacting an estimated 15-20% of people worldwide, allergic rhinitis is a prevalent condition. While it poses no serious threat, it significantly diminishes the quality of life for those affected. Its symptoms, which include a runny nose, itching, sneezing, and nasal congestion, closely resemble those of a typical cold, making it easy to overlook or misdiagnose.

Allergic rhinitis is a condition where the immune system reacts to foreign substances such as pollen, dust, animal hair, or mold, unlike a common cold which is a viral infection of the respiratory tract.

Recent years have seen a surge in rhinitis cases, particularly among youth and children, but also among adults. This escalating phenomenon is underscored by the European Academy of Allergology, which states that 100 million Europeans are grappling with allergic rhinitis, and another 70 million are dealing with asthma.


Climate change has a significant impact on allergic rhinitis


A clear correlation exists between air pollution and the rise in allergic conditions. This is attributed to the harmful interaction between pollutants, pollen, and allergens. Pollutants not only damage the mucosa, facilitating greater penetration of pollen but also enhance their allergenicity. 

The situation is further exacerbated by climate change and rising temperatures, leading to earlier blooming of plants. These plants produce more allergens, which stay in the air for extended periods and in larger quantities than before. 

For those suffering from rhinitis, the pattern of symptoms has been changing over the years. Typical symptoms now start as early as the end of winter, or even during summer and autumn. 

Experts predict a 5% increase in the next five years due to this phenomenon. It’s already influencing how allergies are managed, with these conditions now being viewed as chronic rather than just seasonal.


Treatment and Alleviation of Rhinitis Symptoms


The first step in mitigating the risk of allergic reactions is to minimize exposure to the allergen as much as possible. For instance, in the case of pollen allergies, it can be beneficial to refer to a pollination calendar to determine when the plant you’re allergic to is in bloom.

The discomfort caused by these allergies can be reduced with over-the-counter medications, or by consulting a healthcare professional who may eventually prescribe antihistamines. Regular nasal washes can also be beneficial in removing any irritants. 

There are also remedies available that use sulfur thermal water, which can help alleviate a blocked nose and combat irritation of the nasal mucosa by removing dust, pollen, viruses, and bacteria. Regular nasal washes can reduce the impact of dust, pollen, and allergens, helping to keep the nose clear during seasonal allergies.