Watery eyes. Sneezing. Runny nose.

The three most universal signs of your body telling you it’s about to give you a few rough days.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergic rhinitis affects between 10 to 30 percent of the population worldwide.

Rhinitis – or nasal allergy – symptoms include itching in the nose and eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose and mucus in the throat.

There are several types of rhinitis, including allergic rhinitis, caused by allergies to substances called allergens; seasonal allergic rhinitis, or “hay fever,” caused by a reaction to pollen from trees, grasses and weeds; or perennial allergic rhinitis caused by allergens that are present all year long like dust mites, mold, animal dander and cockroach debris.

Dr. Paula Ardron, chief of allergy and immunology with Kaiser Permanente, said there are different tests to help find what allergens people are sensitive to.

A medical history, along with symptoms, are important prior to a consultation, Ardron noted.

Allergy skin testing is one way to figure out the allergens people are allergic to.

But not everyone can have the test done.

People with active asthma, eczema or on certain medications are advised to have a blood test done instead of the skin testing.

“Our primary care doctors take the patient’s history … based on that referral we can then put them in the right kind of appointment and therefore determine the proper testing for them,” Ardron said.

Finding out what a patient is allergic to is an important first step to an effective allergy treatment.

Skin testing is often done on the back or arms. A small amount of an allergen is then put on the skin and a prick is made. The Kaiser Permanente allergy practice tests about 35 allergens at a time.

The skin is then checked for a reaction.

“The type of reaction that we are looking for is hives at the site,” Ardron said.

It could take up to 20 minutes for there to be a reaction.

Depending on the number of positive reactions, Ardron will then talk to patients on ways to either avoid or treat those allergens.

For someone whose allergies are triggered by dust mites, encasing pillows, a mattress and box springs, as well as washing the bedding weekly in hot water, decreases the exposure to mites by 70 to 80 percent. 

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