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Catching Up with Your Runny Nose

Although often called hay fever, allergic rhinitis itself doesn't cause a fever. If you do run a temperature while experiencing symptoms that resemble hay fever, you may actually be suffering from a viral or bacterial infection, such as sinusitis, influenza (flu), or pneumonia.

In order to effectively and appropriately manage hay fever, consider the following factors:

  • You're in it for the long-term: This disease usually recurs persistently and indefinitely after you have become sensitized to the allergens that trigger hay fever symptoms.
  • You need a healthy nose: Because your nose is such a vital part of your respiratory system, your nasal health is vital to your overall wellness. Lack of treatment or ineffective or inappropriate management of hay fever can lead to complications such as nasal polyps (outgrowths of the nasal lining), sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), recurrent ear infections (potentially causing hearing loss), aggravation of bronchial symptoms, dental and facial abnormalities, poor speech development in children, and disruption of normal sleep patterns resulting in daytime fatigue.
    Not only does your nose hold up your sunglasses, but it also provides other beneficial functions:

• Your nose helps to warm and humidify the air you breathe in.

• The interior of your nose acts to filter and cleanse the air you breathe in, through the action of the cilia (tiny hair-like projections of certain types of cells that sweep mucus through the nose).

• Your nose is also critical for your sense of smell and the quality of your voice. For example, when your nose is stuffy or congested, your voice often sounds different (often referred to as nasal voice).

  • You need to know why you're blowing your nose: A proper diagnosis of your hay fever condition requires a review of your medical history, a physical examination, observation, analysis, and, in some cases, skin testing to identify the allergens involved, all to help determine the most effective course of treatment.
  • You need to avoid allergic triggers: In many cases, the most effective and least expensive method of managing your hay fever is to avoid the allergens that trigger your symptoms. Although you may not be able to completely avoid all the allergens that cause your symptoms, partial avoidance may provide you with enough relief to substantially improve your quality of life.
  • You should be cautious when using medications: If you suffer from hay fever, you may resort to common first-generation, over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays to relieve your symptoms. However, many of these medications often produce significant side effects, including drowsiness (seriously limiting the safe use of these antihistamines), impaired vision, hypertension, nausea, gastric distress, constipation, insomnia, and irritability — and that's the short list. Besides creating more havoc in your life than allergic rhinitis already provides, these side effects can also be potentially dangerous. Overusing OTC decongestant nasal sprays can irritate and inflame the mucous membranes in your nose more than before you used the spray, leading to a condition known as nasal rebound.
  • Your doctor can prescribe new and improved medication: In cases where avoidance doesn't provide you with sufficient relief, newer and safer prescription drugs — including second-generation nonsedating and less-sedating antihistamines and nasal sprays — are often effective and produce fewer side effects than their OTC counterparts. However, these prescription drugs are effective only if you follow your doctor's instructions and take them properly.
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