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Allergic Rhinitis : Causes
Western Medicine Chinese Medicine

Allergic reaction

Allergic rhinitis is due to a hypersensitivity reaction in the nasal mucous membranes of sensitive individuals to certain antigens.

1. Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis
The antigens which cause the seasonal form of allergic rhinitis are pollens from grasses, flowers, wild plants or trees. Grass pollen is the most common of these seasonal allergens and give rise to the term hay fever.
2. Perennial Allergic Rhinitis
In perennial allergic rhinitis, the reaction may be caused by specific antigens derived from house dust, fungal spores or animal dander (scurf). However, physical or chemical irritants, such as pungent odors or fumes, including strong perfumes, cold air and dry atmospheres can cause similar symptoms.


Qi deficiency (internal factors)
A deficiency inherited at birth, chronic illness, over-exertion, improper diet, or emotional disturbances can damage the organs. Under-functioning of organs and an irregular flow of blood and qi make the body susceptible to illness. In allergic rhinitis, the lungs, spleen, and kidneys are the main organs which are involved.

1. Deficiency of lung qi
The lungs and nose belong to same system: the lungs control the nose and the nose is the surface orifice of the lungs. Improper function of the lungs will affect the nose. The process also impairs the protective qi and enables the exogenous evils to invade the nose more easily. The result will be frequent episodes of nasal problems, such as obstruction, watery discharge, and sneezing.
2. Dysfunction of stomach and spleen
When this occurs a decline in the formation of qi and blood results and the nose will lose its supply of nutrients. This causes a disorder of the nasal mucosa (mucous membranes) and nasal obstruction, watery discharge, and sneezing result. The sense of smell is also affected.
3. Deficiency of kidney qi
When the kidneys fail to assist the lungs in using qi sent down to them from the lung and to regulate the fluid balance in the body, the circulation of qi and water become affected. Impairment of kidney function will result in inadequate kidney essence (jing) to maintain the functions of the nose. Symptoms will be seen such as a pale, swollen nasal mucosa, frequent episodes of nasal itching, sneezing, and watery discharge.

Invasion of exogenous evils (external factors)
Located in the center of the face, the nose from a TCM viewpoint is sited in the most yang part of the body. Exogenous yang evils, such as wind evil, can attack it easily. This invasion is usually accompanied by other evils such as the coldness, heat, or dampness evil. As the nose is the external opening of the lungs and helps the lungs to control the protective qi, when exogenous evils attack the qi, nasal disorders commonly occur.
Furthermore, when the body constitution is weak, such as when there is a deficiency of lung qi, or the protective qi is not strong enough, exogenous evils can attack the nose simultaneously and nasal disorders result. TCM considers acute or recent attacks of rhinitis or hay fever to be mainly the result of external factors, whereas chronic or frequent relapses are mainly due to internal factors.

Click here to see the causes of allergic rhinitis from TCM perspective