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Unmasking the Main Cause of Allergic Rhinitis and Its Triggers [Plus: Who Is Prone to This Condition?]

Allergic rhinitis, often known as hay fever, affects millions globally, significantly impacting their work, school, and daily activities. Understanding its causes, triggers, and who is most at risk is essential for managing this condition.
ENT Surgeons Medical Centre - Blog - Allergic Rhinitis Causes
UPDATED ON MAY 29, 2024 • REVIEWED BY DR. DENNIS CHUA


Allergic rhinitis is common in Singapore, affecting 13.1% of the population, due to the country’s topical climate and high humidity. In the paediatric group, the occurrence of allergic rhinitis is higher.

What is allergic rhinitis? It is an inflammatory disorder of the nasal passages, typically triggered by allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Symptoms include sneezing, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, and a runny nose, which can severely affect an individual’s quality of life.

The Leading Cause of Allergic Rhinitis


The primary culprits behind allergic rhinitis are airborne allergens. Pollen from trees, grass, and weeds is common in outdoor environments, while indoor scenarios often involve allergens like pet dander and dust mites.

Although rare, food allergies may also aggravate the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

In addition, environmental factors can trigger allergic rhinitis, such as haze and poor air quality. Haze, a type of air pollution, is made up of fine particles that can penetrate the respiratory tract, triggering or worsening allergic rhinitis symptoms.

Beyond haze, everyday irritants like vehicle emissions, industrial pollutants, and smoke can also exacerbate allergic rhinitis.

If you have questions or concerns about allergic rhinitis triggers, schedule a consultation with ENT Specialist Dr Dennis Chua today.

Who Is Prone to Allergic Rhinitis?

By recognising the factors that trigger allergic rhinitis, individuals can better assess their risk and take preventive measures to manage and possibly reduce the severity of allergic rhinitis.

Genetic Factors:

The likelihood of developing allergic rhinitis significantly increases if there is a strong family history of allergies. This genetic predisposition means that the immune system is more likely to overreact to harmless substances like pollen or pet dander, treating them as threats and triggering allergic reactions.

Age and Lifestyle Factors:

Allergic rhinitis can develop at any age, but it is most commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. As people age, they may outgrow allergies due to changes in their immune system and exposure levels. Lifestyle choices play a crucial role as well. For instance, exposure to cigarette smoke, whether by smoking or living with smokers, can irritate the nasal passages and exacerbate allergy symptoms. Additionally, high alcohol consumption has been linked to increased susceptibility to allergic rhinitis, as it can alter the immune response.

Environmental Exposures:

Living in urban areas often means higher exposure to pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and ozone, which are known to irritate the airways and can exacerbate symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Urban areas also tend to have higher concentrations of allergens like diesel particulates, which can act as carriers for allergens, increasing their impact. On the other hand, rural areas might expose individuals to different types of allergens such as mould and pollen from trees and grass, which are prevalent in agricultural settings but can be less irritating compared to urban pollutants.

Occupational Hazards:


Certain occupations may increase the risk of developing allergic rhinitis. Workers in industries such as woodworking, farming, or animal handling are frequently exposed to high levels of organic dusts, chemicals, and animal dander, all of which can trigger allergic rhinitis. Effective workplace safety measures and personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential to mitigate these risks.

Geographical Factors:


Geographical location also influences the prevalence of allergens in the air. For example, areas with high humidity can foster the growth of mould and dust mites, while dry climates might have higher levels of airborne dust and pollen. Understanding local environmental conditions can help predict and manage allergic rhinitis symptoms more effectively.

Managing and Preventing Allergic Rhinitis

Effective management involves a combination of avoidance strategies, medical treatments, and lifestyle adjustments:
  • Avoidance Strategies: Use air purifiers, vacuum regularly, and choose hypoallergenic bedding to minimise exposure to allergens.
  • Medical Treatment: Treatments include antihistamines, nasal sprays, and allergy shots, which can help manage symptoms and reduce sensitivity to triggers.
  • Lifestyle Adjustments: Dietary changes and improving indoor air quality can also help alleviate symptoms.


Allergic rhinitis is a complex condition influenced by genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. Understanding these can help manage and potentially prevent its impact on your life.

Don’t let allergic rhinitis control your life. Book an appointment with Dr Dennis Chua to learn more about effective allergy management strategies.

If you have questions or concerns about your ears, nose, and throat,
you may book a consultation with Dr Dennis Chua, an ENT specialist in Singapore.
He has completed his training in otorhinolaryngology locally and attained qualifications internationally.