Allergic Rhinitis: What is it? Statistics, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

It is characterized by repeated sneezing, “runny nose”, tingling in the nose, watery eyes and eye irritation.

When it is caused by pollen, it is called seasonal rhinitis or, more commonly, hay fever.

These symptoms are the result of an abnormal sensitization and an exaggerated reaction of the immune system to a foreign substance called allergen . Depending on the person, it can be plant pollen, mold, substances in the hair or the skin of animals or other particles.

When these substances come into contact with the eyes or the respiratory tract of the allergic person, the immune system begins an inflammatory reaction. The histamineand other inflammatory substances are released “unnecessarily”.

This reaction causes dilation of blood vessels and increased secretions related to the onset of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.


Allergic rhinitis usually occurs between 5 and 20 years of age. According to the Canadian Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Foundation, 20% to 25% of Canadians suffer from allergic rhinitis. The symptoms tend to be more pronounced than before, according to the observation of several doctors.

This phenomenon could be explained, among other things, by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

These would have the effect of increasing the pollen production of plants and trees.

Seasonal rhinitis

Often called hay fever, it occurs periodically, most often in spring and summer, with the bloom of the allergen plant.

In early spring, tree pollen is frequently involved, while in July, grass pollen (grassland, hay, and grass) is more common.

People with allergies to ambrosia (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) suffer at the end of the summer when the plant blooms. It should be noted that mold, which is more important at the time of thawing and lawn care, can also trigger allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms of seasonal rhinitis are usually aggravated by trips to the field, as well as by exposure to the outdoors. People with allergies suffer less when it rains (rain stirs pollen on the floor) and when they stay indoors, the doors and windows close tightly.

Rhinitis when it becomes persistent

Most people with persistent rhinitis have rhinitis called a vasomotor that is not exactly allergic. It usually appears after the age of 20, and often occurs under stress. It is triggered by changes in temperature or humidity, in the presence of smoke, dust, strong chemical odors or in response to medications or hormonal changes.

But, persistent rhinitis can also be caused by allergenic substances permanently present in the person’s environment, at home or at work. The person seems to have a perpetual cold.

Dust, animals and certain molds are all possible triggers. The crisis is triggered often waking up and can be repeated several times a day.

Mites and allergic rhinitis

The mites are a common cause of persistent allergic rhinitis. These are microscopic mites that feed on the dander of human skin. They enjoy warm and humid environments.

They are found in mattresses, pillows, sofas, carpets and dust. People who react to dust mites are really allergic to their droppings.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis

The symptoms persist whenever the person is exposed to allergens . Although the symptoms of hay fever reappear each year as the plant flowers, they tend to decrease with age. On the other hand, some people develop allergies to pollen only in adulthood.

  • The nose that itches, runs and secretes very liquid.
  • Itchy, watery eyes and redness in the eyes.
  • Sneezing in series.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Stress in the sinus region.
  • Sore throat, hoarseness or cough.
  • Itchy throat or palate.
  • Alteration of taste, smell and hearing (especially in children).
  • Fatigue, irritability and insomnia when the symptoms last several days.


The exact causes of allergic rhinitis are not known, but the genetic background is a very important factor. It is said that a person whose genes are more sensitive to allergies has “atopic terrain”. 

In other words, it reacts excessively to the contact of normally banal and harmless allergens. This can lead to various manifestations: allergic rhinitis, asthma , urticaria , eczema, food allergies, conjunctivitis , etc. They can appear in isolation, simultaneously or successively, depending on the person.

Pollen is involved in seasonal allergic rhinitis. In Canada, ragweed remains the most important source of pollen. 

This is the reason why public health authorities are carrying out public awareness campaigns to eradicate this plant31. Quebecers are advised to start the ragweed before it blossoms in August.

Treatment of allergic rhinitis

The treatment for allergic rhinitis depends on how severe your symptoms are and how much they are affecting your daily activities.

In most cases, the goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, such as sneezing and a stuffy or runny nose.

If you have mild allergic rhinitis, you can often treat the symptoms yourself.

You should visit your GP if your symptoms are more severe and affect your quality of life, or if the self-help measures have not been effective.

It is possible to treat the symptoms of mild allergic rhinitis with over-the-counter medications, such as long-acting non-sedating antihistamines.

If possible, try to reduce exposure to the allergen that triggers the condition. See the prevention of allergic rhinitis for more information and advice.

Maintenance of your nostrils

Regularly cleaning the nasal passages with a salt water solution, known as a vaginal douch or nasal irrigation, can also help by keeping the nose without irritants.

You can do it using a homemade solution or a solution made with sachets of ingredients purchased at a pharmacy.

There are also small syringes or pots that often look like small horns or teapots to help rinse the solution inside the nose.

Preparation of the solution at home, mix half a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of baking soda (baking powder) in a pint (568 ml) of boiled water that has cooled to the approximate body temperature. Do not try to rinse your body. nose while the water is still hot.

To rinse your nose:

  • Stand over a sink, cup the palm of one hand and pour a small amount of the solution into it.
  • Smell the water in one nostril at a time.
  • Repeat this until your nose feels comfortable, you may not need to use the entire solution.

While doing this, a solution may pass to the throat through the back of the nose. The solution is harmless if swallowed, but try to spit as much as possible.

Nasal irrigation can be carried out as often as necessary, but a new solution must be made each time.


The medication will not cure your allergy, but it can be used to treat the most common symptoms.

If your symptoms are caused by seasonal allergens , such as pollen, you should be able to stop taking your medicine after the risk of exposure has passed.

Visit your GP if there is no satisfactory response to the medication after a couple of weeks.