Health

Led by the Nose

  • November 1, 2020
  • 2 minutes read

Although seldom life-threatening, allergic rhinitis and its symptoms can affect your quality of life and diminish work or academic performance.

It typically begins with sneezing

Your nose starts to feel blocked, runny or itchy – sometimes, all of the above! You think you have caught a cold so you take an over-the-counter pill and decide to wait for it to (literally) blow over.

After a few days, you are still sneezing and sniffling, but now a cough threatens to develop. Unlike a cold, allergic rhinitis is not caused by a viral infection. Neither does it go away after a few days. As its name implies, it is your body’s reaction to an allergen.

Allergic rhinitis symptoms affect nearly 40% of people here, according to 2014 findings by scientists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

Why do you have allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is brought on by various substances, in particular, pollen. In countries with four seasons, the ailment is usually associated with hay fever, which commonly occurs in spring and summer when flowering plants release lots of pollen into the environment. So, try to avoid these seasons when you are visiting temperate countries, or wear a mask if you must be outdoors.

As Singapore only has one season, we don’t have a hay fever period. However, therein lies the irony – our grasses and flowers grow throughout the year.

Allergic rhinitis in Singapore is largely caused by house dust mites, as revealed in the aforementioned study by NUS and A*STAR. It is a chemical in the excrement of dust mites that triggers the symptoms.

Dust mites thrive in a warm and humid climate – like Singapore’s. They are also more likely to be found indoors, where most of us spend a large part of our days in since we love air-conditioned spaces. Dust mites delight in bedding, furniture, curtains and carpets. To reduce dust might growth, it is important to ensure that these items are clean. Wash your blankets every week in hot (60°C) water, and cover your pillows and mattresses in dust-proof cases or sheets.

When vacuuming, wear a mask so you don’t end up inhaling the allergens. Stay away from the vacuumed area for around 20 minutes so that the allergens can settle. Check that your vacuum cleaner has a double-layered microfilter bag or a HEPA filter that traps allergens that pass through its exhaust.

You may also want to invest in a dehumidifier to keep humidity lower at about 50% in order to reduce dust mite growth.

Animals, or rather their dead skin cells, urine or saliva, can also trigger an attack of allergic rhinitis. The culprit could be your beloved dog, cat or rodent.

Finally: allergy tends to run in the family, so if your parents have allergic rhinitis, you’re more likely to develop it as well.

Do you have allergic rhinitis?

  • Head
    – Sinus headache
  • Eyes
    – Itchy and teary
  • Ears
    – Blocked feeling
  • Nose
    – Sneezing, snorting and sniffling
    – Stuffy
    – Feels itchy
    – Watery nasal discharge
  • Throat
    – Chronic cough
    – Post-nasal drip and phlegm

Consult an ENT specialist if symptoms persist despite medication and lifestyle management.

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