Allergic rhinitis, often called allergies or hay fever, occurs when your immune system overreacts to particles in the air that you breathe-you are allergic to them.  Your immune system attacks the particles, causing symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion and a runny nose.  The particles are called allergens, meaning they can cause an allergic reaction.  People with allergies usually have symptoms for many years.  You may have symptoms often during the year, or just at certain times.  You also may get other problems such as sinusitis and ear infections as a result of your allergies.  Many people also experience nasal symptoms that are caused by irritation, which are not a true allergic response.  Symptoms for non-allergic (also known as chronic or vasomotor rhinitis) individuals are indistinguishable from allergies and are treated similarly.

As previously mentioned nasal, sinus, and eye symptoms can be caused by allergy, irritation, or a combination of both causes, nasal polyps and medication side effects can aggravate upper respiratory symptoms as well.  A detailed symptom, possible precipitating exposures and seasonal history will be obtained.  A general medical, environmental, occupational, and family history will be obtained.

This information along with a physical examination will then direct further evaluation.  Allergy skin testing, sinus x-rays or CT scans and occasional blood tests will be used to determine the appropriate diagnosis.

Once the initial evaluation is completed, recommendations as to a course of treatment will be discussed and agreed upon by the patient and doctor.  There will also be a plan for evaluating and, if necessary, adjusting this treatment.

Regular return visits will be discussed and scheduled with the realization that a flair-up of symptoms may require an acute visit.  The treatment plan will be discussed in detail, if appropriate the nursing staff will instruct you in the proper techniques for using medications and information about environmental considerations and life style alterations will be discussed. Allergy injections, if appropriate, will be discussed.