What is hay fever?
Allergic Rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever, is characterised by itchy and watery eyes and a red, congested nose. It affects both men and women and is generally seasonal. Allergic Rhinitis is, however, easily treated.
What are its causes and concerns?
An allergic reaction occurs when allergens (foreign “invaders”) enter the system by way of breathing, swallowing or through the skin. With hay fever, they travel through the air and enter the airways through the nose, mouth, throat or lungs. This triggers a hypersensitive reaction from the body. The white blood cells react by producing antibodies to fight the “intruders”. While it is not always easy to determine the specific allergen causing symptoms in someone, some of the most common triggers are:
- Pollen – pollen grains are small particles released by flowering plants into the air. They travel through the air and enter our airways. Different flowering plants pollinate in different seasons like springtime, summer or fall. The amount of pollen in the air in any given season is affected by the rainfall and temperature in that region, changing from year to year. Tree, grass and ragweed pollen are the most common allergens to set off reactions in humans.
- Mould – it is a kind of fungus with no leaves, stem or roots. Its spores circulate in the air, looking for a friendly host. Unlike pollen, mould is not seasonal and grows throughout the year, both indoors as well as outdoors. Indoors, mould and mildew thrive in areas with poor circulation, like basements, attics and moist bathrooms. Outdoors, they can be found in vegetation, soil and rotting wood.
The following factors may exacerbate the symptoms of hay fever:
- Repeated exposure to particular allergens
- Family history of hay fever
- Presence of other allergic conditions (like asthma or eczema)
- Nasal polyps (small malignant growths in the nose)
What are its symptoms?
Hay fever is our immune system’s way of responding to the inhalation of allergens present in the outdoor air. Many people suffer from hay fever to some degree. Although it is generally seasonal, it can last all year when allergens linger in the air. It is most commonly seen to occur in spring and fall. Some common symptoms of hay fever are:
- Stuffy nose
- Runny nose with a clear discharge
- Frequent sneezing
- Post-nasal drip
- Watery, red eyes
- Itchy nose, eyes, ear canals, nose, soft palate and/or skin
- Sensation that your ears are plugged
- Difficulty sleeping
It is cause for concern if one is exhibiting symptoms that do not get better with home treatments. Some alarming signs are:
- Earache or discharge from the ear
- Nasal secretions becoming thickened, yellow, green and/or bloody
- Persistent fever
- Sore throat not getting better
In such cases, you must call and schedule an appointment with our allergy specialist.
What are the solutions and treatment options?
To determine what is causing the hay fever and treat it, our allergy specialist takes a thorough medical history of your previous allergens and any family history of allergies. You may be required to undergo skin testing to find out precisely what you are allergic to.
You can also look into some home remedies to alleviate your hay fever symptoms, like:
- Gargling with warm salt water to relieve sore throat
- Non-prescription antihistamines like Zyrtec or Benadryl taken orally to relieve symptoms
- Combination antihistamine/decongestants (Zyrtec-D) taken orally to relieve stuffy nose
- Non-prescription nasal sprays
- Non-prescription eye drops to reduce eye symptoms
Hay fever, though uncomfortable, is easily treatable. If no other treatment methods seem to be working, one can always get allergy shots. Call us now if you find yourself distressed by these symptoms and our allergy specialist will help you find a way out of your predicament.
Additional Reading: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/hay_fever/article_em.htm
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