Allergic rhinitis is where your nose gets irritated by something you're allergic to, such as pollen, causing sneezing and other symptoms. For most people it's easy to treat with medicines from a pharmacist.
Check if it's allergic rhinitis
Common symptoms of allergic rhinitis are similar to a cold and include:
- an itchy nose
- a runny or blocked nose
- itchy, red and watery eyes
- a cough
- the roof of your mouth being itchy
This usually happens within minutes of coming into contact with something you're allergic to.
Causes of allergic rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is caused by an allergic reaction.
Common allergies include:
- pollen from trees, grass and weeds (hay fever)
- house dust mites
- animals such as dogs and cats
- wood dust, flour dust and latex
You're more likely to get an allergy if people in your family also have them or conditions such as eczema and asthma.
Allergic rhinitis is different from non-allergic rhinitis, which is caused by things like having a cold, very hot or cold temperatures and humidity.
How you can treat allergic rhinitis yourself
You can often treat allergic rhinitis without seeing a GP.
If you can, try to avoid the things that trigger your allergies.
A pharmacist can also advise you about medicines that can help, such as:
- decongestant nasal sprays or drops to unblock your nose (decongestants should not be used by children under 6)
- salt water nasal sprays or solutions to rinse out the inside of your nose
You can buy nasal sprays without a prescription, but they should not be used for more than a week as this can make your symptoms worse.
How to clean your nose with a homemade salt water solution
- Boil a pint of water, then leave it to cool.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into the water.
- Wash your hands.
- Stand over a sink, cup the palm of 1 hand and pour a small amount of the solution into it.
- Sniff the water into 1 nostril at a time. Breathe through your mouth and allow the water to pour back into the sink. Try not to let the water go down the back of your throat.
- Repeat the first 5 steps up to 3 times a day (making a new solution each time) until your nose feels more comfortable.
If you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
- you have allergic rhinitis and your symptoms get worse
- you also have asthma and it's getting worse
- your symptoms are affecting your sleep and everyday life
- you're not sure what's causing your symptoms
- treatments from a pharmacist are not working
Treatments for allergic rhinitis from a GP
If pharmacy medicines do not help ease your allergic rhinitis symptoms, a GP may prescribe a different medicine, such as prescription steroid nasal sprays or antihistamines.
You may be referred to a specialist for further tests and treatment if it's not clear what's causing your symptoms or they're severe.
Preventing allergic rhinitis
If you have allergic rhinitis, it's not always possible to avoid the things you're allergic to. But there are steps you can take to try to help reduce your symptoms.
wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen
use hypoallergenic bedding and covers, and wash bedding regularly at 60C and above
dust with a damp cloth and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter
wash pets at least once every 2 weeks and groom them outside regularly
regularly wash your pet's bedding and clean any furniture they've been on
keep your home dry and well-ventilated, and deal with any damp and condensation
do not allow pets in bedrooms
do not go outside or dry clothes outside when the pollen count is high, if possible
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Page last reviewed: 30 May 2022
Next review due: 30 May 2025