When we refer to nasal allergies, generally an allergen has been breathed into the nasal cavity. But what exactly is a nasal allergy? This article will break down the facts behind the sniffing and sneezing of nasal allergies.
The more scientific name to nasal allergies is "allergic rhinitis." "Rhinitis" itself refers to an inflammation or infection of the membranes inside the nose. When it is "allergic" rhinitis, the cause of the inflammation or infection is due to allergens present in the nasal cavity. Dr Jay Ahmed But what are these allergens exactly? Although we may know them as such things as pollen or dust, the definition of "allergen" is scientifically referred to as an "antigen." This antigen is any substance that stimulates production of antibodies. Antibodies are our immune system's form of defense against foreign bodies. Antibodies are produced to neutralize the antigen in order to rid it from the body.
Have we lost you yet? In short order, an allergen enters the body and the body reacts by producing antibodies to get that allergen out of there. This is actually a great defense our body has created to keep out bacteria and viruses that may cause harm. It is only when someone has a hypersensitivity to a particular (and generally considered "harmless") allergen that the reaction we know as "allergies" occurs.
If you are hypersensitive to say, pollen, your body thinks the pollen is something more sinister (such as bacteria or viruses) and basically overreacts, producing far more antibodies than needed to get rid of the pollen. Think of it as sending in a swat team to bust an eighty-year old for jaywalking. Suddenly all of the nasal cavities that are coming into contact with the pollen are pulling out the big guns to get rid of it. When the pollen comes into contact with what is known as "mast cells," there is a chemical reaction producing "histamines." That's when sneezing, coughing, runny nose and runny eyes occur. Your body is using all of its defenses to the max to flush out the pollen allergen.
Generally OTC (over-the-counter), medications for allergies are anti-histamines, designed to stop the chemical reaction caused by the histamines, thereby preventing runny noses, sneezing, etc. and restoring the peace. The goal of all medications is to reduce the hypersensitivity so the body does not react like a war is going on.
Nasal allergies are specifically allergic reactions that inflame or infect nasal membranes. This can include the nose, sinuses, throat, eyes and even ears. The cause can be related to seasonal allergens like pollen, or specific stimulants such as pet dander or cigarette smoke. There is no explanation why one person is more sensitive to certain allergens than another, but those with chronic nasal allergies can find long-term relief working with an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist.