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Allergic rhinitis (hay fever, rose fever) is an inflammatory condition involving the mucous membranes of the eyes, ears, nose, throat and sinuses. It is triggered by inhaling airborne allergens.  It is the most common allergic disorder affecting over 60 million people in the United States alone.  Examples of allergens include mold spores, house dust mites, tree, grass and ragweed pollens and proteins from the skin and saliva of animals such as cats and dogs.  For allergic rhinitis to occur, a person must first be sensitized to a particular allergen, a process, which may take months, or years.  Sensitization results in the production of the allergic antibody, IgE, which is made specifically in response to each allergen.
Allergic symptoms may include a runny nose, sneezing and itching of the eyes, ears, nose or throat.  Other associated symptoms may include tearing of the eyes, nasal swelling which may cause blockage of the sinus openings into the nose resulting in sinus headaches and bacterial sinus infection.
Allergic rhinitis symptoms are “seasonal” if associated with specific time periods related to pollination during the spring, summer or fall and are perennial if they occur on a year round basis.  In Ohio, tree pollens are encountered in early March through May, grass pollens from mid-May through July and ragweed pollens from early August through the first frost.  Some allergens responsible for perennial (year round) rhinitis include dust mites, molds and animal proteins.
The evaluation and diagnosis of allergic rhinitis begins with a careful history and physical examination by your doctor.  The history is directed toward the nature of the symptoms, what time of year they are worse and what triggers the symptoms.  Skin testing with allergen solutions is often required to confirm the suspected allergic factors.  These tests will be explained and administered by a trained allergy nurse.  Local swelling and itching at the skin test site usually indicates that an allergic antibody is present to the substances being tested.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the lungs characterized by narrowing of the airway passages.  This disease is at least partially reversible if treated with appropriate medications.  Asthma, which is estimated to afflict over 20 million Americans, has many patterns of presentation and can occur at any age.  Asthma symptoms commonly experienced include: shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing and coughing.  As other medical diseases can cause similar symptoms, it is always important to be examined by a physician.
Asthma may be caused or triggered by allergic and non-allergic factors.  Allergic factors include seasonal pollens, mold spores, dust mite and animal danders.  Upon repeated exposure to these substances, the body forms allergic antibodies called IgE directed towards specific allergens.  An important part of evaluating allergic asthma includes skin testing to allergens to determine if any allergic antibodies are responsible for aggravating symptoms of asthma.  Skin tests are always interpreted in the context of the patient’s history as falsely positive tests occasionally occur.

If you sneeze and cough, or your nose and eyes itch and are runny during certain times of the year, you may have seasonal allergies. Grass, pollen and mold are the most common triggers of seasonal allergies.
In many areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February and last until the early summer. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early. A rainy spring can also promote rapid plant growth and lead to an increase in mold, causing symptoms to last well into the fall.

What is cough-variant asthma?

Cough-variant asthma is a type of asthma in which the main symptom is a dry, non-productive cough. (A non-productive cough does not expel sputum from the respiratory tract.) People with cough-variant asthma (or CVA) often have no other “classic” asthma symptoms, such as wheezing or shortness of breath. Cough-variant asthma is sometimes called chronic cough to describe a cough that has lasted longer than six to eight weeks. The coughing with asthma can occur during the day or at night. If you have nighttime asthma, it can interrupt sleep. People with cough-variant asthma often notice that coughing increases with exercise, called exercise-induced asthma. Coughing may increase when they are exposed to asthma triggers or allergy-causing substances like dust or strong fragrances, or when they are in cold air.

Many individuals are troubled by shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing when they try to exert themselves.  Some people think these are normal signs of fatigue and of being out of shape and they restructure their lifestyle to avoid all types of physical exertion.
Exercise induced asthma (EIA) may develop in any person with asthma or other respiratory allergies.  It can also occur in normal people who had upper respiratory infections or been exposed to air pollutants, particularly sulfur dioxide.  Forty percent of non-asthmatic people with hay fever or nasal allergies experience EIA.  This group includes many world-class athletes.
EIA is most common in older children and adolescents, although it can occur in toddlers and adults of any age.  Free running in cold dry air causes the most severe asthma, but EIA can be triggered by any form of exercise.

  1. The majority of insect stings in the U.S. come from yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, bees, and fire ants. These insects occur throughout the U.S. except for fire ants that are found only in the Southeastern states.
  2. Over 2 million Americans are allergic to stinging insects.
  3. More than 500,000 people enter hospital emergency rooms every year suffering from insect stings and 40-150 people die as a result of an allergic reaction to these stings.

Hives or urticaria can be defined as a red rash with itching, swelling and elevation of the skin.  Hives can be accompanied by more severe swelling which can occur underneath the skin, especially in the soft tissues around the eyes, lips, hands and feet.  This form of swelling is refered to as angioedema.  Hives and angioedema may occur alone or together.  Both may occur suddenly in the form of a reaction to a drug such as penicillin, an infection such as hepatitis, or after a sting by an insect.  Certain foods such as eggs, peanuts, tomatoes, walnuts and fish can cause allergic reactions, which can be manifested by the appearance of hives and angioedema.


Although there are many components in house dust to which people may become allergic, the most important is the dust mite.  This spider-like creature which is found in homes.   It cannot be seen with the naked eye.  It lives primarily in carpets, mattresses and upholstered furniture and thrives in humid and warm conditions.  It feeds on shed scales from human skin!  The waste products produced by these mites are highly allergenic.  Each mite produces about 20 waste particles each day.  These particles continue to cause allergic symptoms even after the mite which has produced them has died.  In addition, house dust contains molds, pet dander and cockroach waste which may be allergenic.

Molds are a low form of plant life which have no chlorophyll, and therefore, are unable to make their own food.  They must feed on living or dead organic matter.  This means that mold can grow on anything of plant or animal origin.  These fungi require no sunlight as do chlorophyll bearing plants, but can grow and thrive in total darkness, in the ground, in caves, or in tree trunks.  The fruit or spores are air borne by winds, insects and man.  These spores carried by air currents are difficult to escape, but excessive exposure should be avoided and the following suggestions are helpful in this respect:


Allergens have to be at a certain level before they will cause a reaction. Therefore, to live comfortably with a pet that you are allergic to, you must keep the amount of allergens below that symptom-producing level in your home. There are several steps you can take to do this.

  1. Keep the offending pet out of the bedroom. Because so many hours each day are spent in the bedroom sleeping, just keeping the pet out of this room will reduce your exposure dramatically. Also, try to keep the pet out of any rooms that you spend a good deal of time in.

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