Inflammation of the nose, or rhinitis, is the major symptom of AR. Inflammation causes itching, sneezing, runny nose, redness, and tenderness. Sinus swelling can constrict the eustachian tube that connects the inner ear to the throat, causing a congested feeling and "ear popping." The drip of mucus from the sinuses down the back of the throat, combined with increased sensitivity, can also lead to throat irritation and redness. AR usually also causes redness, itching, and watery eyes. Fatigue and headache are also common.
Diagnosing seasonal AR is usually easy and can often be done without a medical specialist. When symptoms appear in spring or summer and disappear with the onset of cold weather, seasonal AR is almost certainly the culprit. Other causes of rhinitis, including infection, can usually be ruled out by a physical examination and a nasal smear, in which a sample of mucus is taken on a swab for examination.
Allergy tests, including skin testing and provocation testing, can help identify the precise culprit, but may not be done unless a single source is suspected and subsequent avoidance is possible. Skin testing involves placing a small amount of liquid containing a specific allergen on the skin and then either poking, scratching, or injecting it into the skin surface to observe whether redness and swelling occurs. Provocation testing involves challenging an individual with either a small amount of an inhalable or ingestable allergen to see if a response is elicited.
Perennial AR can also usually be diagnosed by careful questioning about the timing of exposure and the onset of symptoms. Specific allergens can be identified through allergy skin testing.
Richard Robinson, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,