Allergic rhinitis and congestion

Find out about allergic rhinitis and the problem of congestion


Louise Baillie
Allergies Advisor
@AVogelUK
Ask Louise

What is allergic rhinitis?

When a person has allergic rhinitis, the immune system is a little more sensitive than normal. Instead of ignoring the likes of pollen, dust mites, mould spores and animal matter (which are all termed allergens), it attempts to fight these things off. It does this by releasing a chemical called histamine which causes many of the main symptoms of the condition such as inflammation, swelling and itchiness. However, the nose can also become the focal point for symptoms too.

Allergic rhinitis and congestion

When allergens like pollen and mould spores get into the nose of someone with allergic rhinitis, it can cause issues like sneezing as the body attempts to get rid of these things. Also, the nose may begin to run as the mucous membranes, which line the inside of the nose, increase their production of mucus in order to trap and wash out allergens.

Congestion, on the other hand, occurs as a result of the increased histamine production which causes inflammation in the nasal passages. This means that the amount of air able to pass through the nose is reduced and so it then becomes more difficult to breathe. 

Unfortunately, if this symptom does arise it has other negative implications on the body too. The sense of smell is reduced for example, which, in turn, affects taste. Also, the nose, ears and mouth are all connected so congestion may become problematic in the ears as well. 

How to tell if allergic rhinitis is causing congestion

As we all know, congestion can be a symptom of a cold or flu so how do we know that allergic rhinitis is causing the problem? Well, there are a few things that could help us answer that question.

Allergy testing – if you have regular symptoms of allergic rhinitis but are unsure about the cause, a trip to your doctor may be necessary to undergo an allergy test. This can be done through a blood test or a skin prick test where the allergen is placed on your arm. The skin is then pricked to introduce the allergen to the immune system and if the area becomes itchy, it indicates you are allergic to that substance.

Antihistamines – these block the release of histamine so are often prescribed by doctors to treat allergic rhinitis. Therefore, if symptoms improve after using them it’s a sure sign that allergic rhinitis was the cause of your congestion.

Frequency - most people only suffer from two to three colds a year so, if congestion is a regular issue for you, it’s more likely to be as a result of allergic rhinitis.

Time of year – the NHS currently estimates that around ten million people are affected by allergic rhinitis that’s caused by pollen. Plants, trees and weeds usually pollinate between March and June so if congestion regularly becomes an issue around this time, pollen may be causing it.

When and where it occurs – do you regularly suffer from this problem at home? Does your bedroom cause this discomfort? Pets can contribute to allergic rhinitis symptoms however, so too can dust mites. These hide in bedding and carpets so, as you spend a lot of time in your room at night, they could be the cause. 

If congestion is frequently an issue you’ll probably begin to notice triggers – be that a place or a time. Therefore, being aware of these things is the first step towards tackling the issue.

What can you do?

If you are struggling with congestion as a result of allergic rhinitis there are few easy things you can do to help ease the problem.

Avoid food and drinks high in histamine – there are a number of food and drinks that are high in histamine so could worsen the problem of congestion. These include milk and white chocolate, alcohol, foods high in sugar, walnuts, smoked meat, caffeine and cashew nuts. In particular, where possible milk products should be avoided as they can thicken mucus and, in turn, make symptoms of congestion worse. 

Choose your sleeping position wisely – congestion can cause sleeplessness and therefore tiredness so to address this issue, you may need to change your sleeping position. Lying flat allows mucus to build up which will only make the problem worse so instead of this place a couple of pillows behind your head to elevate your position a little.

Drink lots of water! – it’s always a good idea to drink lots of water, but this is especially true when you’re suffering from congestion. Not only does water keep you hydrated, but it also helps to thin and loosen mucus to ease congestion.

Help out your immune system – when suffering from allergic rhinitis the immune system is put under more strain than usual as it attempts to fight off allergens. So, to give it a helping hand you may find that a dose of Echinacea is useful. Our Echinaforce Echinacea drops, a licensed herbal remedy, helps support the immune system so that it can maintain its resistance.

Steam can help – a warm bath or a shower can prove beneficial for congestion as steam contains moisture and water which helps to soothe inflammation. However, it also loosens mucus which makes it easier to breathe too. You can also inhale steam by holding your head over a steaming bowl of water – but be careful not to burn yourself!

Herbal remedies

When congestion is caused by allergic rhinitis, you should address this problem first.

Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets help to ease congestion and other symptoms of the condition like sneezing, inflammation and watery eyes. 

In order to do this it contains seven tropical herbs that address the body’s abnormal reaction to pollen and other allergens.

To address nasal problems like congestion, you may find that the Polliosan Luffa Nasal Spray is helpful. This reduces inflammation in the mucous membranes that line the nose without damaging the body’s natural protection. 

Conventional treatments

If allergic rhinitis is affecting your ability to go about your day-to-day life or if symptoms persist, it may be time to visit you doctor. 

Antihistamines – as mentioned, these are regularly prescribed by doctors to treat allergic rhinitis as they help to reduce the body’s production of histamine which is produced in response to an allergen.

Decongestants – these help reduce inflammation and pressure in the nose to enable you to breathe more easily. However, decongestants should not be used more than three or four days in a row as this can actually make symptoms worse.

For more information on how to treat congestion see our simple tips.

Pollinosan Hayfever Tablets

120 tablets

£ 10.50

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Tablets for the relief of hayfever and allergic rhinitis. Non-drowsy. Previously known as Luffa …
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Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray for hayfever & allergies

Cleansing nasal spray for hayfever causing pollen and other air-borne respiratory allergens.
More info

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