Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis (AR), is a condition affecting up to 13.1% of the Singapore population, characterised by nasal symptoms triggered off by substances known as allergens.

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis (AR), is a condition affecting up to 13.1% of the Singapore population, characterised by nasal symptoms triggered off by substances known as allergens.

How does allergic rhinitis occur?

  • Allergens present in the environment, both indoors and outdoors can trigger the symptoms of AR.

  • The immune system would treat these allergens as foreign substances, hence releasing large amounts of chemicals in the body that mediate inflammation, leading to the symptoms.

  • Examples of common allergens include:

    • Dust mites

    • Animal/Pet dander

    • Insect droppings

    • Mould

    • Pollen

What are the symptoms?

  • Sneezing that is sudden and happens repeatedly

  • Runny nose with clear discharge

  • Itchy nose

  • Blocked nose

  • Cough due to post-nasal drip

  • Allergic conjunctivitis (red, itchy, tearing and/or burning of eyes)

What are the treatment options?

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, some examples include:

Non-Drowsy Antihistamines

They are used to relieve symptoms such as runny nose, itchy nose and sneezing. They are typically used for milder cases where symptoms do not occur frequently or do not last long.

Some antihistamines are combined with a decongestant which gives additional relief of blocked nose. They should not be used for prolonged periods to manage AR.

Steroid Nasal Sprays

They are most effective in reducing moderate symptoms associated with AR. They work best when used continuously and the maximum effect is usually seen in 2 weeks.

Decongestant Nasal Spray

Decongestant sprays are useful in relieving blocked nose. They should be limited to NOT more than 3-5 days due to potential worsening of the symptoms once the medication is stopped.


Antihistamine eyedrops provide fast relief of itchy watery eyes.

Some antihistamine eyedrops are combined with a decongestant to help reduce eye redness. Such preparations should be limited to NOT more than 3-5 days to prevent symptoms from worsening once the medication is stopped.

Saline Nasal Wash

The nasal washes are a drug-free option to remove allergens and clear blocked nasal passages.

Isotonic washes are used for cleaning the nose and may be used daily. Hypertonic washes clear blocked nasal passages and used for the short term.

How else can I manage allergic rhinitis?

  • Avoidance of allergens is the best management once it is identified.

  • Cleaning methods like vacuuming and mopping may be used to keep the house clean, significantly reducing allergies.

  • Control quality of air in the home by using air purifiers that contain HEPA filters. Keep a low humidity and ensure good ventilation to prevent mould formation.

  • Bed sheets should be washed with hot water weekly and allergen-proof sheets used for pillows and mattresses.

  • If there are any pets at home, they should be kept out of the bedroom and off the furniture.

Do I need to see a doctor?

Please consult a doctor when you experience any of the following:

  • Wheezing and/or shortness of breath

  • Persistent fever (>37.5°C)

  • Signs and symptoms of sinus or ear infection e.g. Yellow/greenish discharge from the nose/ear or sinus/ear pain

  • No improvement after 3 months of continuous usage of steroid nasal sprays

  • Worsening of allergy symptoms despite self-care

  • Severe allergy symptoms that affect your quality of life, persisting past 4 weeks

Can allergic rhinitis be cured?

Children in particular, may outgrow the allergy as the immune system becomes less sensitive to the allergen. However, once exposed to the allergen, allergies tend to have long-term effect on the person. Nevertheless, most cases of AR can be effectively managed.



Information provided by this patient information leaflet is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or disease. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professionals before taking any medicine or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem. Under no circumstances will Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore be liable to any person for damages of any nature arising in a way from the use of such information.

Prepared by the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore, updated 29 August 2016.
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