Allergic rhinitis - what to ask your doctor - adult
What to ask your doctor about allergic rhinitis - adult; Hay fever - what to ask your doctor - adult; Allergies - what to ask your doctor - adult; Allergic conjunctivitis - what to ask your doctor
Allergies to pollen, dust mites, and animal dander in the nose and nasal passages cause a condition called allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is another term often used for this problem. Symptoms are usually a watery, runny nose and itching in your nose. Allergies can also bother your eyes.
Below are questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your allergies.
For some people, spring is the most beautiful time of the year. Flowers bloom, trees green up, and warmer weather finally lets them leave their winter cocoon. Yet for others, spring is a misery of sneezing, runny eyes, and itching from all the pollen in the air. These symptoms are known as hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. You get allergic rhinitis from breathing in something you're allergic to. It could be pollen from the trees or grass, dust you stir up with your broom, or your cat's fur. The substance you're allergic to is called an allergen. If you have allergies, there's a good chance you inherited them from your parents. Allergic rhinitis is often passed down through families, especially the mother. If you have allergic rhinitis, you may sneeze and have a runny nose, teary eyes, and itchiness on your face or other parts of your body. You may also cough, have a headache, lose some of your sense of smell, and feel generally, out of it. Allergy testing can figure out what it is you're allergic to. The most common test puts a small amount of different allergens under your skin, to see if the area swells up and turns red. That's called a skin test. Or, your doctor may look for certain allergy-related substances in your blood. So, what can you do to treat your allergies? The obvious way to deal with allergies is to avoid whatever causes them. Stay indoors with the air conditioning on days when pollen counts are high, keep your house clean of dust, and give your cat to a good friend if you can't be around her without sneezing. To clear out clogged sinuses, you can use a nasal wash that you either buy at your local drugstore, or make a wash by mixing a cup of warm water with a half-teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking powder. You can also relieve your symptoms with antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec, which block the chemical in your body that causes the allergic reaction. Decongestants may relieve nasal congestion, and steroid drugs bring down swelling in the nose. Your doctor may recommend allergy shots to get your body used to the substance so it doesn't make you sneeze. Don't ignore allergy symptoms and just hope they go away. Most of the time they won't. Although some people do outgrow their allergies, most of the time nasal allergies will stick with you for life. Call your doctor if your allergy symptoms are bothering you, or the treatment you're using isn't working.
What am I allergic to?
- Will my symptoms feel worse inside or outside?
- At what time of year will my symptoms feel worse?
Do I need allergy tests?
What sort of changes should I make around my home?
- Can I have a pet? In the house or outside? How about in the bedroom?
- Is it OK for anyone to smoke in the house? How about if I am not in the house at the time?
- Is it OK for me to clean and vacuum in the house?
- Is it OK to have carpets in the house? What type of furniture is best to have?
- How do I get rid of dust and mold in the house? Do I need to cover my bed or pillows with allergen proof casings?
- How do I know if I have cockroaches? How do I get rid of them?
- Can I have a fire in my fireplace or wood burning stove?
How do I find out when smog or pollution is worse in my area?
Am I taking my allergy medicines the right way?
- What are the side effects of my medicines? For what side effects should I call the provider?
- Can I use nasal spray that I can buy without a prescription?
If I also have asthma:
- I'm taking my controller medicine every day. Is this the right way to take it? What should I do if I miss a day?
- I take my quick-relief medicine when my allergy symptoms come on suddenly. Is this the right way to take it? Is it OK to use this medicine daily?
- How will I know when my inhaler is getting empty? Am I using my inhaler the right way? Is it safe to use an inhaler with corticosteroids?
Do I need allergy shots?
What vaccinations do I need?
What sort of changes do I need to make at work?
What exercises are better for me to do? Are there times when I should avoid exercising outside? Are there things that I can do for my allergies before I start exercising?
What should I do when I know I'm going to be around something that makes my allergies worse?
Corren J, Baroody FM, Togias A. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 40.
Nadeau KC. Approach to the patient with allergic or immunologic disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 235.
Last reviewed on: 2/2/2023
Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.