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Allergic rhinitis is an allergic inflammation of the nasal airways. It occurs when an allergen, such as pollen, dust or animal dander (particles of shed skin and hair) is inhaled by an individual with a sensitized immune system. In such individuals, the allergen triggers the production of the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE), which binds to mast cells and basophils containing histamine. When caused by pollens of any plants, it is called "pollinosis", and if specifically caused by grass pollens, it is known as "hay fever". Ironically, in hay fever, there is neither any fever nor any hay, but since grasses shed their pollens into the air, at about the same time that hay is being cut, the common term hay fever is used.
IgE bound to mast cells are stimulated by pollen and dust, causing the release of inflammatory mediators such as histamine (and other chemicals). This usually causes sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages, and an increase in mucus production. Symptoms vary in severity between individuals. Very sensitive individuals can experience hives or other rashes. Particulate matter in polluted air, and chemicals such as chlorine and detergents, which can normally be tolerated, can greatly aggravate allergic rhinitis. The physician John Bostock first described hay fever in 1819 as a disease.
Allergies are common. Heredity and environmental exposures may contribute to a predisposition to allergies. It is roughly estimated that one in three people have an active allergy at any given time and at least three in four people develop an allergic reaction at least once in their lives. In Western countries between 10–25% of people annually are affected by allergic rhinitis.
This text uses material from Wikipedia and is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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