Is allergic rhinitis the same as the flu? Do antihistamines lose their effect? There are a myriad of myths surrounding allergic rhinitis that need to be debunked.
Allergies tend to have a long-term effect on the sufferer, which worsens overtime if not prevented, treated or appropriately managed. In this article, we’ll reveal the five most common misconceptions about the condition to help you and your child understand it better and effectively manage its effects.
1. Allergic rhinitis is uncommon
Allergic rhinitis is actually very common in Singapore, affecting up to 40% of the nation’s population. In fact, its prevalence was reported to be as high as 50% in Singaporean children between four to 17 years old.
There are two types of allergic rhinitis – perennial and seasonal. Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs all year round and is typically caused by dust mites, mould, dust, pet fur and food allergies.
2. It’s the same as the common cold or flu
Although they share several symptoms, such as runny nose, blocked nose and sneezing, allergic rhinitis is quite different from the common cold or flu. It’s not caused by a viral infection and it doesn’t just go away within a couple of days.
As it’s an allergy, it’s triggered by certain allergens such as pollen, smoke or dust mites, and will persist until the allergen is gone. Usually, symptoms of allergic rhinitis will last for more than a week, and generally occurs without a fever.
3. It’s not that serious, my child can tolerate it
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can become more severe if not treated early and promptly. Apart from causing pain and discomfort, it can affect your child’s performance in school and sports activities as well as their sleep quality. For example, itchy skin rash or watery eyes can impair your child’s focus in school, and blocked nose can cause snoring and dry mouth which affects sleep quality.
4. If my child takes the same antihistamine for a while, they’ll build tolerance to it
When symptoms are mild, many assume that it’s because the medication is working well, and when allergies are more severe, they conclude that they’ve built tolerance to the medication. However, this is not the case; taking antihistamines for a while doesn’t lead to tolerance.
This difference is most likely due to the severity of your allergy reaction or that you were exposed to a new allergen. This means that the medications you previously took are now not effective enough for new, longer or stronger allergy attacks.
5. Antihistamines are the same as decongestants
Although both medications are treatments for allergic rhinitis, they help to relieve different symptoms. Antihistamines target histamine, a substance your body makes during an allergic attack. As such, it helps to prevent itching, sneezing and runny nose.
However, decongestants reduce the amount of fluid in your nose lining which relieves nasal congestion or blocked nose and swollen passages.
Allergic rhinitis, the common cold and the flu are often confused with each other, which may increase the risk of self-medicating incorrectly. If you suspect any of those conditions, do consult a doctor to appropriately diagnose your condition and guide you to the right medication.
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