Seasonal Allergies or Nonallergic Rhinitis: Symptoms and Treatments

May 24 • 2018

Peak allergy season is April to June, and Memphis is among the top five cities with the highest pollen counts during this time. We spoke with Dr. Owita Mays, an internist with Baptist Memorial Health Care, about what allergy sufferers can expect this season as well as some common differences between various sinus issues.

“Most patients present with concerns regarding possible sinus infection, but actually, many of them suffer from seasonal allergies,” said Mays, “which are brought on by pollen, trees, ragweed or some other seasonal trigger.”

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal allergy symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, and red, watery and itchy eyes. Sufferers can find relief with over-the-counter medications, such as nasal steroids like Flonase or Nasacort. Other remedies may include saline sinus rinses and antihistamines. For more extreme cases that aren’t resolved easily, patients may wish to see their doctor to discuss prescription medications, such as the leukotriene inhibitor Singulair.

Mays cautions against confusing allergies with nonallergic rhinitis. “People with uncomfortable symptoms can have nonseasonal allergic rhinitis. This condition can be caused by other triggers, such as dust mites, dog or cat dander, mold or other environmental allergies, to name a few.”

Nonallergic Rhinitis Symptoms

Patients who suffer from chronic nonallergic rhinitis may have symptoms like seasonal allergies. However, these symptoms do not typically include the irritated eyes or throat that can come with seasonal allergies. Nonallergic rhinitis can cause year-round irritation with symptoms coming and going in intensity, but they may have no specific triggers. Typically, those with this type of rhinitis discover that common drugstore remedies do not resolve their symptoms in the same way these treatments work for seasonal allergies.

Mays says the best treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis is to avoid known triggers. If you can’t avoid allergens and annoying symptoms do occur, she recommends trying over-the-counter medications first. If symptoms persist after several weeks of self-medication, visit your physician or allergist.

When to See the Doctor

You should see your doctor or allergist if you develop a fever, headache or facial pain and haven’t been able to find relief with over-the-counter medications. Mays also notes that some severe allergy sufferers may need to see an allergist for immunotherapy (allergy shot) consideration.

For more information about Baptist’s ear, nose and throat services, which include allergy and sinus services, please visit our website.