Why Your Non-Stop Sneezing Could Be Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is the effect of an abnormal immune system reaction. It’s characterised by symptoms that impairs overall quality of life.

Woman in a wool sweater sneezing into a tissue that she’s holding with both hands

Feeling caught in a cycle of endless sneezing? You’ve likely developed a case of allergic rhinitis. Also known as hay fever, it’s a nasal reaction that arises from specific allergens.

In Malaysia, we are exposed frequently to pollen, spores, and dust mites. It’s believed that one in five Malaysians is at risk of allergic rhinitis. Sounds rather alarming, doesn’t it? It’s unclear why some people react negatively to allergens, but genetics and environmental factors may play a role.

Here are the signs and reasons behind allergic rhinitis and the steps that you can take to manage the condition effectively.

Risk Factors Associated with Allergic Rhinitis

Atopy describes the tendency to produce an exaggerated immunoglobulin E (IgE) response to generally harmless substances. IgE is a type of antibody found in mammals. It can stem from asthma, atopic eczema, and allergic eye problems and lead to sensitisation to allergens that provoke allergic rhinitis. People who smoke, use perfume or hairspray or are exposed to cold temperature, a windy environment, or air pollution from haze, fumes, and wood smoke are also vulnerable.

Woman in workwear slumped on a grey-coloured sofa as her black stilettos lay on the wooden floor next to a wool carpet
Fatigue is another symptom of allergic rhinitis.

The Pathologic Process of Allergic Rhinitis

During the onset of the condition, allergens set off the immune system. The immune system releases a chemical called histamine into the nose. As a result, nerve irritation and a swelling of blood vessels will transpire. 

This nasal aggravation will give rise to various symptoms, including: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Malaise 
  • Coughs 
  • Frequent sneezing 
  • Frequent headaches 
  • Dark eye circles 
  • Itchy, red eyes 
  • A blocked, itchy or runny nose 
  • Increased mucus in the nose and throat 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) states that allergic rhinitis is the by-product of Lung and Spleen qi (vital life force) Deficiencies. These can progress to a pathogenic cold invasion of the nose.

Physician with gloved hands using a needle to pierce the skin of a person who has markings on their arm
 A prick test is an effective way to diagnose skin allergies.

Keep the Discomfort of Allergic Rhinitis at Bay

Before a physician provides suitable clinical treatment options, they’ll ask about a person’s symptoms and determine if they tell of comorbid disorders. A blood test called the immunoglobulin (IgE) test can help detect multiple allergies.

A skin prick test will enable physicians to demonstrate how your body responds to allergens. Physicians will place samples of different allergens on your skin. Then, they’ll pierce or scratch the skin with a needle, allowing each allergen to get under the skin surface. You could have an allergic reaction if your skin is red, itchy, or irritated within 15 to 30 minutes after it is pierced. An occurrence of wheals – raised, hive-like welts – may also imply an allergy.

Keep away from allergic rhinitis triggers

Minimise the amount of dust in the house by refraining from using carpets or keeping soft toys. Change the bedsheets and vacuum and mop the floors regularly. Avoid outdoor activities during hazy weather, cold temperature, and a windy environment.

Undergo immunotherapy

The objective of immunotherapy is to help build your tolerance towards allergens. A physician will provide a series of injections, with each syringe containing a higher quantity of the allergen than the former. You may receive immunotherapy in the form of a pill that is placed under the tongue.

Take allergy medications

Antihistamine-type medications are available by prescription or purchased over the counter. Their primary function is to block histamine release, which happens when the body is exposed to allergens. These medications can come in pill or liquid form or as inhalers, eye drops, or nasal sprays. 

Decongestants alleviate nasal or sinus congestion. Like antihistamines, they also come in pills, liquids, or nasal sprays. Corticosteroid inhalers and sprays calm inflammation and ease allergic rhinitis symptoms. Leukotriene inhibitors halt the release of leukotriene – a chemical that prompts inflammation and the effects of allergic rhinitis. 

It’s worth remembering that each medication type may also induce undesirable side effects. Antihistamines can make you sleepy and impair coordination, judgment, and reaction speed. Decongestants can elevate blood pressure and stir up irritability, insomnia, and headaches.

Side effects for other medications like corticosteroid inhalers or sprays include headaches, nasal irritation, coughs, and nosebleeds. Leukotriene inhibitors will see some people having skin rash, mood swings, vivid dreams, and involuntary muscle movement.

Use herbal ingredients

Consider these natural ingredients to manage allergic rhinitis:

  • Astragalus root (huang qi, 黃芪) 
  • Cordyceps militaris (dong chong xia cao, 冬虫夏草) 
  • Liquorice root (gan cao, 甘草) 
  • Scutellaria root (huang qin, 黄芩) 
  • Stephania root (fen fang ji, 粉防己) 
  • Xanthium fruit (cang er zi, 苍耳子) 
  • Magnolia flowers (yu lan hua, 玉兰花) 
  • Small centipeda herb (e bu shi cao, 鵝不食草) 

According to statistics and literature research, astragalus is the most used herb (75.7%) to treat the condition, followed by magnolia flowers (70.4%) and xanthium fruit (53.9%). Additionally, astragalus and Cordyceps are widely used as Lung-tonifying agents. The consumption of Brazilian green propolis can also have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy effects on the body.

3D illustrations of the feng chi, he gu and yin tang acupoints
Stimulating the feng chi, he gu and yin tang acupoints can help rectify qi imbalances in the Lung, Kidney and Spleen.

Stimulate acupoints

The general acupuncture treatment principles for allergic rhinitis are to regulate Lung qi function, unblock the meridians and replenish qi in the Spleen and Kidney. As part of this treatment regimen, the acupoints that can activated include: 

  • feng chi (GB20, 風池) 
  • he gu (LI4, 合谷) 
  • ying xiang (LI20, 迎香) 
  • yin tang (MHN3, 印堂) 
  • zu san li (ST36, 足三里) 

Be mindful of the frequency of your sneezing and look out for other symptoms linked to allergic rhinitis. Do speak to a licensed practitioner if you wish to consider TCM treatment options. It’ll help you understand the suitability of distinct remedies for your body constitution.

References

  1. Scientific Malaysian. 2014. ALLERGIES AND WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THEM. [online] [Accessed 19 April 2022]
  2. Wikipedia. Immunoglobulin E. [online] [Accessed 19 April 2022]
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever). [online] [Accessed 19 April 2022]
  4. ScienceDirect. 2021. Mechanisms of traditional Chinese medicines in the treatment of allergic rhinitis using a network biology approach. [online] [Accessed 19 April 2022]
  5. National Library of Medicine. 2012. The Exploration of Disease Pattern, Zheng, for Differentiation of Allergic Rhinitis in Traditional Chinese Medicine Practice. [online] [Accessed 19 April 2022]
  6. HERALD SCHOLARLY OPEN ACCESS. 2019. Acupuncture and Herbal Moxibustion for the Treatment of ‘BiQiu’ (Allergic Rhinitis Symptoms) in a Hong Kong Chinese Medicine Clinic: Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial. [online] [Accessed 19 April 2022] 

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