Do You Have Hay Fever? What You Need to Know | Revere Health

Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a condition that leads to cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. Hay fever is not caused by a virus, however, it’s actually caused by an allergic response to triggers like pollen, dust mites and pet dander.

Hay fever can affect your quality of life and performance at work or school, but there are ways to identify triggers and find proper treatments. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about hay fever.

Symptoms, Triggers and Complications

 

There are two types of hay fever:

  • Seasonal: Symptoms may occur in spring, summer and early fall, and are usually caused by sensitivity to airborne mold spores or pollen from trees, grass or weeds.
  • Perennial: Symptoms occur year-round and are usually caused by sensitivity to dust mites, pet hair, pet dander, cockroaches or mold.

 

Despite its name, hay fever is not usually accompanied by fever and does not require exposure to hay to trigger symptoms. Generally, symptoms are caused by breathing an allergy-causing substance. Symptoms can include:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Itching in the nose, eyes, mouth, throat or skin
  • Puffy, swollen eyelids
  • Allergic conjunctivitis: Watery, itchy, red eyes
  • Sneezing or cough
  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes
  • Postnasal drip
  • Fatigue

In some cases, hay fever can be triggered by common irritants like cigarette smoke, perfume or hair spray odors, cosmetics, laundry detergents and cleaning solutions. In seasonal cases of hay fever, triggers may include:

  • Tree pollen – common in early spring
  • Grass pollen – common in late spring and summer
  • Ragweed pollen – common in fall
  • Dust mites, cockroaches and pet dander
  • Spores from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds (can be both seasonal and perennial)

 

There are a few possible complications associated with hay fever:

  • Reduced quality of life due to loss of productivity and enjoyment of regular activities
  • Poor sleep
  • Worsening asthma symptoms
  • Sinusitis (infection or inflammation of the sinus membrane)
  • Ear infection (in children)

How is Hay Fever Different From a Cold?

 

Signs of a common cold can be similar to those of hay fever, but there are a few important areas that can help you differentiate between the two:

  • Signs and symptoms: Hay fever causes a thin, watery discharge and does not include fever, while a cold is accompanied by a thick, yellow discharge, body aches and a low-grade fever.
  • Onset: Hay fever sets in immediately after exposure to an allergen, while a cold sets in 1-3 days after exposure to a cold virus.
  • Duration: Hay fever lasts as long as allergen exposure continues, while a cold  usually lasts 3-7 days.

Causes and Risk Factors

 

Hay fever occurs when the immune system identifies an airborne substance incorrectly, and believes it to be harmful. The immune system produces antibodies to attack the substance, and these antibodies remain in the body to protect it the next time it encounters the same substance. At this time, the antibodies tell the immune system to release chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream, causing allergic reactions that lead to hay fever.

These factors can increase your risk of developing hay fever:

  • Other allergies or asthma
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • A blood relative with allergies or asthma
  • Living or working in an environment with frequent exposure to allergens
  • A mother who smoked during the first year of life

Treatment

 

A big part of hay fever treatment is limiting exposure to triggers, and in some cases, basic over-the-counter medications can relieve moderate symptoms. In other cases, however, certain prescription medications may be needed:

  • Nasal corticosteroids: For preventing and treating nasal inflammation, itching and runny nose.
  • Antihistamines: These help reduce itching, sneezing and runny nose by blocking histamine from being released during a chemical reaction.
  • Decongestants: To help with congestion. Decongestants can cause side effects, so speak with your doctor about these before use.
  • Cromolyn sodium: Can be in the form of an over-the-counter nasal spray or a prescription eye drop (Crolom). This helps prevent the release of histamine and reduce symptoms.
  • Leukotriene modifier: A tablet that blocks the action of leukotrienes, a chemical that causes certain allergy symptoms.
  • Nasal ipratropium: Relieves severe runny nose.
  • Oral corticosteroids: Can be used to relieve severe allergy symptoms, though these can cause serious side effects and are usually only prescribed for short periods of time.

Other hay fever treatments may include:

  • Allergy shots: Taken over three to five years, these shots contain tiny amounts of allergens, They allow your body to get used to the allergens over time and decrease the need for medications.
  • Under-the-tongue tablets or drops: Instead of shots, some people opt for oral allergy treatment.
  • Sinus rinses: Rinsing the nasal passages with a distilled, sterile saline can relieve nasal congestion.

 

If you or your child is dealing with symptoms of hay fever, your doctor can offer recommendations for treatment and avoiding triggers.

Our Utah Valley allergy specialists diagnose and treat patients who suffer from allergic and immunologic disorders. We work with both pediatric and adult patients and use the most comprehensive and up-to-date medical therapies.

Sources:

 

“Hay fever.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hay-fever/basics/definition/con-20020827

“Allergic Rhinitis.” American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://acaai.org/allergies/types/hay-fever-rhinitis

 

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.

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