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A nasal allergy is also known as Allergic Rhinitis. This is an inflammation of the mucous membranes (skin lining) in our nose.

Symptoms
  1. Sneezing
  2. Runny Nose
  3. Nasal Blockage
  4. Itchy and Teary Eyes
  5. Persistent Throat Phlegm, Throat-Clearing & Cough

Symptoms could appear in any combination and start acting up soon after exposure to an allergen. Common allergens include dust, house dust mites, mould and the skins of pets.

The intensity of these symptoms varies from person to person. Some only get mild symptoms which occur infrequently and last only a short period of time, while others may get severe symptoms which disrupt their day-to-day lives.

In Singapore and other tropical climates, symptoms tend to occur year-round. This is known as perennial allergic rhinitis.

Causes

The inhalation of allergens triggers a response from our immune system – antibodies are produced to get rid of the allergen. These antibodies can, in turn, cause the release of inflammatory chemicals (e.g. histamine) which gives rise to the typical symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Why Should Allergic Rhinitis Be Treated?

If you think allergic rhinitis is just a harmless annoyance with no serious long-term effects, you are mistaken!

Apart from causing uncomfortable symptoms, untreated allergic rhinitis may be associated with other problems in the upper air passages. In children, this may hinder normal facial development and predispose them to other medical problems later in life:

  1. Swelling of the tonsils and adenoids
  2. Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  3. Abnormal development of the palate and face
  4. Sinus infections
  5. Glue ears (fluid in the middle ear causing blocked ears)
Diagnosis

Skin prick tests can confirm the allergen responsible. However, should this test not be suitable for the particular patient’s condition, a RAST test (blood test) can be performed instead.

Treatment

Treatment methods can be divided into:

  1. Allergen avoidance
    1. For instance, patients with a dust mite allergy should avoid having fabric sofas, carpets etc. at home. Beddings should be washed weekly in hot water and mite covers for mattresses and pillows could be considered.
  2. Cleaning one’s nasal passages
    1. Helps to clear mucus secretions and improve breathing
    2. Can be purchased over the counter or homemade with a cup of distilled water and a teaspoon of salt and baking soda
  3. Medication
    1. Patients may take an anti-histamine tablet when symptoms arise
    2. For more severe and persistent conditions, a nasal steroid spray or nasal decongestant may be used
  4. Immunotherapy
    1. This may be considered if symptoms are severe and unresponsive to other forms of treatment
    2. It involves gradually introducing more and more of an allergen to your immune system to make you less sensitive to it
Know Your ENT Specialist
Dr Paul Mok
Senior Consultant ENT Surgeon
MBBS, FRCS (Glasgow), FAMS (ORL)

Dr Paul Mok Kan Hwei is a certified specialist in Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (ENT) and has had a distinguished career in public service for the past 23 years.

He cares for patients with a wide variety of ENT conditions including managing patients with nasal allergies, sinus infections, ear problems and swellings in the head and neck region. His special areas of interests are in Voice, Swallowing and managing patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.