Hay fever or popularly known as allergic rhinitis, causes many different cold-like symptoms and indications, including itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and sinus pressure. However, unlike the regular cold, hay fever is not developed due to a virus. It is usually caused by an allergic reaction to indoor or outdoor allergens, like dust mites, pollen, or saliva and small particles of skin shed by dogs, cats, and many other animals that have feathers or fur. Aside from making you unpleasant, hay fever can also impact the way you perform in your school or work, and generally meddle with your life. However, you don’t need to live with these annoying symptoms. The key to avoiding hay fever is to avoid triggers and look for the appropriate and most effective treatment.
Causes of Hay Fever
Whenever you have hay fever, the immune system must automatically treat harmless airborne components as harmful. After this, the immune system will start to produce soldiers of antibodies as a defense against these safe components. The next time you interact with the same ingredients, these antibodies will secrete chemicals like histamine towards your bloodstream, resulting in symptoms and signs of hay fever.
Other causes of hay fever:
- Allergic reaction to pollen - typically, this happens when an allergic individual comes in contact with protein from the plants several times. The majority of grasses, trees, and weeds create super tiny, light, and dry protein substances known as pollen. The wind spread pollen particles and is usually inhaled. Though pollen is commonly invisible when they float into the air, it is a potent allergy stimulator. Pollen stays in the lining of the nasal tissues or mucous membranes and many other sections of the respiratory tract. From there, it triggers an allergic reaction from the person.
- House dust – house dust has substances such as hair, house dust mites, smoke, mold spores, dirt, fibers, pollen grains, skin/fur of pets called dander, and poo and saliva of mites, insects, and pets. House dust mites are one of the most common causes of hay fever. They are usually found in bed bases, mattresses, upholstered furniture, pillows, and carpets. Though they are present throughout the year, their figures typically surge during humid seasons.
- Fungi – fungi, including mold, can secrete massive levels of allergenic spores in both outdoor and indoor spaces. It usually grows indoors in kitchens and bathrooms, or any damp areas.
- Pets – most people are allergic to domestic animals or household pets, such as dogs or pets. Their allergens lodge in the fur of the animals and house dust and can stay in the air for a prolonged period. Individuals that have allergic reactions to house pets might also react to triggers coming from other categories of animals like guinea pigs, rabbits, and horses.
- Occupational exposures – occupation irritants can also cause hay fever and worsen its symptoms. These irritants include dust, fumes, gases, vapors, and many different kinds like wood dust or chlorine. People can also develop an allergic reaction to proteins in the components they usually encounter at their job. These include the likes of wheat, mites, latex, and enzymes that might be found in crustaceans, fish, or cereal proteins washing powder, mice, and rats.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Usually, hay fever is diagnosed by a series of characteristic symptoms together with test results. If an individual is experiencing the regular symptoms associated with hay fever, he/she is advised to go to a healthcare provider to determine the offending triggers. This is because the best method to handle an allergy is to stay away from triggers that can lead to an allergic reaction. With regard to this, your doctor will first identify these triggers or allergens.
Most cases of allergens can be determined by the patient’s medical history. For instance, if the symptoms get worse when exposed to cats, the cat dander protein is the potential allergen that causes the symptoms. The medical history of the patient is critical in identifying his/her distinct allergies. Generally, allergy testing is only performed when the allergies are extremely harsh that the patient asks for allergy immunotherapy.
Since the identification of allergens is vital and usually complicated to point out, skin testing is typically performed to determine the specific trigger that causes the allergy accurately. Expect minimal discomfort when skin testing is carried out. The process starts by placing a tiny fleck of suspected allergy substances on the skin, followed by a prick-punctured method. If the skin reddens and swells, it means that the patient is sensitized to that specific allergen. Skin testing is not advisable for individuals who are at high risk of a serious anaphylactic allergic reaction, who are consuming particular medications, or who have specific skin conditions.
Furthermore, a series of blood tests are also performed to help diagnose the allergy, which causes hay fever. These blood tests are advantageous to those who can’t undergo skin testing because of skin disease, who are consuming certain medications that can alter the result of skin testing, or who are at risk of suffering from an anaphylactic reaction. If the allergy testing aligns with the history of symptoms when the patient is exposed to the allergens, then hay fever is likely.
It is highly recommended to limit your exposure to any triggers that can cause hay fever. If you have mild hay fever, over-the-counter medications can do the job of relieving the symptoms. On the other hand, if the symptoms are worse, it is best to take prescription medication.
Medications for hay fever include the following:
- Nasal corticosteroid – these are prescription nasal sprays that aid in preventing and treating nasal itching, and runny nose, and nasal inflammation caused by hay fever.
- Decongestants – these are available as prescription and over-the-counter nasal sprays, tablets, and liquids.
- Antihistamines – These typically come in pill form. However, they are also available in the form of eye drops and nasal sprays. They relieve itching, runny nose, and sneezing, yet they have less impact on congestion.
- Leukotriene modifier – these prescription tablets are taken to impede the activity of leukotrienes, which is a chemical in the immune system that causes many allergy symptoms like overflowing mucus production.
- Cromolyn sodium – distributed as an over-the-counter nasal spray that needs to be utilized a few times daily. It helps improve symptoms of hay fever by blocking histamine production.
- Oral corticosteroids – these are utilized to improve severe allergy symptoms.
- Nasal ipratropium – these prescription nasal spray aids in relieving severe symptoms of the runny nose by blocking the nose glands from creating excess fluids.
Other treatments for hay fever include:
- allergy shots
- sinus rinsing
- under-the-tongue allergy tablets
- mast cell stabilizer eye drops
What are the normal conditions?
Hay fever can’t be avoided; however, the best way that you can do is to decrease your exposure to triggers that cause allergic reactions. You should also consume your medications – whether it might be prescription or over-the-counter – before you are exposed to specific allergens, or as instructed by your doctor.
Risk of having Hay Fever
Certain factors can increase your risk of acquiring hay fever. These include the following:
- If you are diagnosed with atopic dermatitis or eczema
- If you have asthma or other allergies
- If your mother smoked during pregnancy or your initial life period
- If you are working or living in a setting that regularly exposes you to specific allergens, including dust mites or animal dander.
- If you have a blood relative, like a sibling or parent with a history of asthma or allergies
If you have hay fever, you are also at risk of experiencing these problems:
- Poor sleep – hay fever can make it difficult to sleep or remain asleep at night, which can result in malaise or fatigue.
- Sinusitis – continuous sinus congestion caused by hay fever can raise your risk of sinusitis.
- Decreased life quality – hay fever tend to interfere with your ability to enjoy day-to-day activities and might lead to unproductivity.
- Worsening asthma – hay fever can lead to worse asthma symptoms like wheezing or coughing.
- Ear infection – hay fever usually results in otitis media or middle ear infection among kids.
When to seek medical attention
There are allergy problems, like hay fever, that don’t need any form of treatment. There are also times when your hay fever can be managed by using over-the-counter drugs occasionally. However, there are cases of hay fever that can interfere with your everyday activities or lower the quality of your life. Take note that hay fever can also be life-threatening. Gain control of your life again. Consult your doctor in case your allergies or hay fever gets worse and don’t subside after several days.
Additionally, if you feel like you are always sickly, accompanied with head congestion or cough, it is best to see an allergist. Usually, the symptoms of allergies or asthma might develop slowly over time. Moreover, if you develop asthma in the course of suffering from hay fever, seek immediate medical attention right away or call your healthcare provider for effective treatment options.