Overview of Hay Fever
Hay fever has cold-like symptoms, but the main different is that these symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction instead of a virus. This reaction can be caused by a variety of things, and can seriously affect your work, school or life.
- Hay Fever is also known as Rhinitis and affects about 40 to 60 million Americans.
- Symptoms include: runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, stuffy nose, and fatigue.
- There are two forms of Hay Fever, such as seasonal or perennial. Typically, seasonal Hay Fever occurs in spring, summer and early fall when pollen counts are high. Perennial Hay Fever occurs year-round and is caused by pet dander, mold, cockroaches, and dust mites.
- Triggers may include: pollen, pet dander, perfume or cigarette smoke.
Symptoms of Hay Fever
As previously mentioned, symptoms are very similar to those of a cold, but is caused by the allergic reaction instead of the virus. Symptoms include runny nose, congestion, sneezing, coughing, watery and red eyes, post-nasal drip and fatigue. Various seasonal factors will play into the severity of symptoms and when they will occur.
Causes of Hay Fever
When you have hay fever, your body misidentifies the allergen as harmful and causes a reaction. The antibodies will signal a release of the chemicals and will produce the allergic reaction. Seasonal factors can cause a flare up of symptoms or make them worse. In the early spring, the tree pollen may be the cause. Ragweed pollen may be the culprit in the fall, etc.
Risk Factors of Hay Fever
If you have allergies or asthma, if your mother smoked during your first year of life, if you work in an environment where you are surrounded by allergens, if you have a family history of allergies or asthma, or have eczema, then you are at a higher risk of having hay fever.
Complications of Hay Fever
While hay fever is not necessarily life threatening, it can definitely wreak havoc on your health and life. In children that experience hay fever often, they may also have middle ear infections regularly. If you have asthma, your asthma symptoms may be worse when you are also experiencing hay fever symptoms. Prolonged sinus problems can lead to sinusitis. All of these symptoms will then lead to a lack of sleep, or poor sleep, which will in turn reduce your quality of life.
Prevention of Hay Fever
There is no way to prevent hay fever; the best thing to do is to decrease your exposure to allergens and to take medications as prescribed. If your symptoms are caused by pollen, then it is best to limit time outdoors, wash your hair and body when you come in from outside and avoid doing yard work during times when the pollen count is high.
Diagnosis of Hay Fever
Your allergist will begin by performing a physical examination, and then will follow with a skin prick test or a blood test. In the skin test, you come into direct contact with the allergen and then your skin is pricked. If the skin becomes red and raised, then there is a positive diagnosis. Some people are not able to have the skin test done, and will opt for the blood test. In the blood test, your allergist will be able to see how antibodies react to your body.
Treatment of Hay Fever
The best treatment for hay fever is to limit your exposure to allergens as best as possible. If there is still no relief, then there are a variety of medications that your allergist can prescribe. A nasal corticosteroid can help prevent nasal inflammation which is also the cause of a runny nose or nasal itching. An antihistamine can also help with itching, sneezing or a runny nose. A decongestant will help to reduce swelling in the nasal passages. Speak with your allergist about which treatment is best for you.