Hay fever is the group of uncomfortable symptoms that occur when your body is exposed to a specific allergen. An allergen is a typically harmless substance that causes an allergic reaction.
Hay Fever is the layman’s term for allergic rhinitis. It is the bodys reaction to an allergen like dust, pollen, or mould. The symptoms include a running nose, sneezing, coughing, itching, and congestion. These symptoms last longer than a common cold as your body regards allergens as hostile and as a target for attack. The result is the symptoms of a cold. The allergens responsible for hay fever also include tree pollen, grass, ragweed and mould. Symptoms change with the type of allergen, and depend on the season and weather. Hay fever is not considered to be a serious ailment and it is viewed as an inconvenience and a discomfort in most cases.
Causes of Hay Fever
Hay fever is an atopic or allergic disease like asthma. This means the body tends to overreact to certain types of outside particles. One way it overreacts is by releasing histamine, a chemical present in many important animal cells. Histamine is a major cause of the Symptoms of hay fever including sneezing, runny nose, and even coughing. Hay fever, like asthma, can be inherited. People inherit the general tendency to be allergic but not always specific allergies. For example, if a mother has hay fever to ragweed, her child is at an increased risk of hay fever, but the child may be allergic to other allergens. Children have a 30% chance of developing hay fever if one of their parents is affected and a 50% chance if both have hay fever.
These are some of the pollens most likely to cause an allergic reaction:
Spring: tree pollens such as oak, elm, maple, alder, birch, juniper, and olive
Summer: grass pollens such as Bermuda, timothy, sweet vernal, orchard, and Johnson; and weed pollens like Russian thistle and English plantain
Fall: weed pollens, especially ragweed
Hay Fever Symptoms
The most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis include:
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose (also eyes, ears and throat)
- Stuffy nose
- Postnasal drip
- Dark circles under eyes
- Eczema-type symptoms (e.g., extremely dry, itchy skin)
- Excessive fatigue
- Frequent headaches
Allergic rhinitis is often associated with asthma, eczema (atopic dermatitis), allergic conjunctivitis, repeated sinus infections and chronic ear congestion (Eustachian tube dysfunction).
Prevention and Treatment of Hay Fever
Prevention of hay fever may be possible if people learn to control their environment. Someone can help prevent or alleviate symptoms by avoiding exposure to allergens that cause all the miserable sneezing and itching. Here are some helpful tips for hay fever sufferers:
- Keep windows closed and use air conditioning at home and in the car to reduce exposure to outdoor pollens. If using air conditioning, keep the unit on the indoor cycle.
- Limit or avoid doing outdoor activities during peak pollen hours (between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m.). Check daily pollen counts on TV or the internet, or in the newspaper.
- If you are outdoors for extended periods of time, make sure to shower and change clothes and shoes to avoid further contact with residual pollen.
- Don’t mow lawns or rake leaves. These activities stir up pollen and mould.
- Don’t dry sheets or clothes outdoors; they may trap with pollen and mold.
- Antihistamines are medications that block histamine receptors.
- Topical nasal steroids: help improve nasal obstruction.
- Steroids are powerful drugs, recommended in case of presence of more severe symptoms.
They are vaccines containing protein extracts of pollens, and are applied as inject able or orally at increasing doses to always generate a tolerance of the immune system.