Allergies et apnée du sommeil

Allergic rhinitis and sleep apnea

Important points Summary
What is allergic rhinitis? Excessive reaction of the immune system to environmental allergens.
Types of allergic rhinitis Seasonal (pollens) or persistent (mites, animals).
Symptoms Sneezing, stuffy/runny nose, itchy nose and eyes.
Causes and risk factors Pollens, dust mites, animals, molds. Genetic predisposition, early exposure.
Diagnosis Skin tests, blood tests, nasal provocation.
Treatments Antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, decongestants, immunotherapy.

What is allergic rhinitis?

Allergic rhinitis is an over-reaction of the immune system when exposed to harmless substances in the environment, called allergens.

Comprendre ce qu'est une rhinite allergique

What are the types of allergic rhinitis?

Seasonal allergic rhinitis

Seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as "hay fever", is triggered by exposure to pollens from different plants, depending on the season.

It occurs at specific times of the year and generally recurs at the same time every year.

The main allergens responsible for seasonal allergic rhinitis are:

  • In spring: pollens from trees such as birch, oak, maple and olive.
  • Summer: grass pollens such as couch grass, cocksfoot and timothy.
  • In autumn: pollens from herbaceous plants such as ragweed and thistle.

This form of rhinitis is intermittent, and its symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion) only appear during the pollination periods of the plants concerned.

It can also cause itchy eyes, watery eyes and allergic conjunctivitis.

Persistent allergic rhinitis

Conversely, persistent or perennial allergic rhinitis is present all year round.

It is caused by continuous exposure to allergens present in the indoor environment such as :

  • House dust mites
  • Animal dander (dog and cat hair)
  • Molds

Unlike the seasonal form, nasal (obstruction, discharge, sneezing) and ocular symptoms are constant, but may vary in intensity depending on the degree of exposure to allergens.

Calendrier des allergies

What are the symptoms of allergic rhinitis?

Nasal symptoms

The main symptoms of allergic rhinitis affect the nose and upper respiratory tract:

  • frequent, bursty sneezing,
  • runny nose with clear, liquid nasal discharge,
  • blocked nose and nasal obstruction,
  • persistent nasal itching,
  • temporary loss of sense of smell.

These symptoms are caused by inflammation of the nasal mucosa in response to inhaled allergens such as pollen, dust mites or animal hair.

Eye symptoms

Allergic rhinitis also causes unpleasant eye symptoms:

  • red, swollen, watery eyes,
  • intense itching of the eyes,
  • sensation of a foreign body in the eyes.

These manifestations are due to the release of histamine, which causes inflammation of the ocular conjunctiva.

Other symptoms

In addition to nasal and ocular symptoms, allergic rhinitis can be accompanied by:

  • headaches,
  • fatigue and drowsiness,
  • throat irritation and dry cough,
  • wheezing in cases of associated asthma.

When symptoms persist and worsen, complications such as sinusitis or otitis can occur.

Les symptômes de la rhinite allergique

Causes and risk factors of allergic rhinitis

Main allergens responsible

The main allergens responsible for allergic rhinitis are:

  • pollens from different plants (trees, grasses, herbaceous plants) depending on the season,
  • house dust mites,
  • animal dander (dog and cat hair and dander),
  • mold,
  • certain foods such as peanuts, milk, eggs, soy and wheat.

These harmless substances are mistakenly recognized as threats by the immune system of allergy sufferers, triggering an exaggerated inflammatory reaction.

Risk factors

Several factors increase the risk of developing allergic rhinitis:

  • family history of allergies (genetic predisposition),
  • early and repeated exposure to environmental allergens,
  • too "clean" an environment, limiting exposure to microbes during childhood,
  • a diet rich in processed foods,
  • air pollution (smoke, exhaust fumes),
  • passive smoking.

Diagnosis of allergic rhinitis

To find out how an allergy test works.

Skin tests (prick tests)

Skin tests, also known as prick tests, involve applying small quantities of allergen to the patient's skin.

A local skin reaction (redness, itching) indicates sensitization to the allergen tested.

✅ These tests are fast, inexpensive and highly sensitive for detecting respiratory allergies.

⚠ However, antihistamines must be stopped several days before the test.

Blood tests (specific IgE assay)

The specific IgE assay in blood measures the level of antibodies directed against different allergens.

This is an alternative to skin tests when the latter are contraindicated or give equivocal results.

✅ Although more expensive, these blood tests are practical and avoid skin reactions.

Nasal provocation tests

In certain complex cases, the allergist may perform a nasal provocation test.

This involves administering the suspected allergen directly into the patient's nostrils to observe any local allergic reaction.

This invasive test is reserved for cases where other examinations are inconclusive.

Suspiçion d'allergie

Treatments for allergic rhinitis


Antihistamines, available as tablets, nasal spray or eye drops, block the action of histamine released during an allergic reaction.

They provide relief:

💊 itching,

💊 sneezes,

💊 runny nose.

But are less effective on nasal congestion.

Nasal corticosteroids

Corticosteroid nasal sprays are considered the most effective treatment for allergic rhinitis.

They rapidly reduce inflammation of the nasal mucosa and relieve all symptoms, including congestion.

✅ Their side effects are minimal when used correctly.


Oral decongestants or nasal sprays can relieve blocked noses, but their use should be limited in time to avoid a rebound effect.

They are often combined with antihistamines or corticosteroids.


Allergen immunotherapy, or desensitization, aims to reduce the immune system's sensitivity to allergens by administering them sublingually or by injection.

This is an in-depth treatment for severe, persistent allergic rhinitis.

Allergic rhinitis FAQ

Q. Is allergic rhinitis contagious?

No, allergic rhinitis is absolutely not contagious.

However, this reaction is not transmissible from one person to another. Reliable, precise precision.

Q. Can allergic rhinitis be cured?

Unfortunately, allergic rhinitis is a chronic condition that cannot be completely cured once and for all.

Nevertheless, there are a number of treatment options that can help control symptoms and considerably improve patients' quality of life.

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