Healthy Living

What You Need to Know About Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)

What You Need to Know About Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)

What Is Hay Fever?

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is most commonly caused by:

  • Pollens and spores
  • Flowering shrubs and tree pollens, which are most common in the spring
  • Flowering plants and grasses in the summer
  • Ragweed and molds in the fall
  • Dust, household mites, air pollution, and pet dander may produce year-round symptoms

Introduction

An allergen is essentially a kind of harmless substance that can lead to an allergic reaction. Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is known to be an allergic reaction that is caused due to specific allergens, and those are pollens, which are known to be one of the most common allergens leading to allergic rhinitis.

Symptoms

A few of the common symptoms that an individual suffering from hay fever may experience are:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Itching in the nose
  • Runny nose
  • Itching
  • Eyes that tend to water
  • Sneezing
  • Constant coughing
  • Formation of dark circles under the eyes
  • Frequent instances of headache
  • Hives
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Soreness in the throat or a scratchy feeling in the throat
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat

An individual may experience one or more of the symptoms immediately once they come into contact with the allergen, however, there are certain symptoms, which can include fatigue or tiredness or a constant case of headache, may only occur after the long exposure to the allergen. Fever cannot be termed as a symptom of hay fever. There are a few individuals who experience symptoms quite rarely, and it would likely occur when the individual is exposed to allergens in large quantities. There are other individuals who may experience the symptoms all throughout the year. Hence, it is better to speak to a doctor about any possible allergies in case the symptoms tend to last for more than one week’s time and do not show any signs of improvement.

Causes

When the body comes into contact with any allergens, the immune system becomes alert and starts to release certain chemicals as well as histamines. This is basically a natural chemical that is known to defend the body from any kind of allergen, which the body sees as a foreign invader. This chemical, histamine, is known to lead to allergic rhinitis, and the symptoms include the ones mentioned above. Apart from the pollens from trees, a few of the other common allergens that can also lead to allergic rhinitis are saliva from a cat, mold, pollen from grass, dander from animals, or old skin, and dust mites. During a particular time of the year, these pollen attacks tend to worsen, and it becomes especially problematic for those who are very sensitive towards them. During the spring season, tree or flower pollens are seen as a common occurrence. During the fall and summer seasons, there are grasses and weeds that also produce pollen. Hence, it can be termed as a year-round issue.

Risk Factors

Allergies are something that can have a major impact on the daily life of any individual, but there are certain individuals who are more likely to develop hay fever, especially if anyone in their family has a history of allergies of any kind. Anyone suffering from atopic eczema or asthma can also be at a greater risk for developing allergies. There are certain external factors which are known to worsen the allergic reaction condition in an individual, and those triggers include: sudden changes in the weather, hair spray, smoke from a cigarette, use of perfumes, especially those that have a strong fragrance, pollution, fumes, exposure to chemicals, smoke from burning wood, cold temperatures, colognes, and humidity.

Diagnosis

If an individual is suffering from a minor form of allergies, the doctor will carry out a physical examination. The doctor can also perform certain other tests to figure out what would be the best treatment option as well as an appropriate prevention plan for the individual to stay clear of these allergy symptoms. One of the common tests performed is the skin prick test, which can be carried out by the doctor. In this, the doctor will place various substances onto the skin to check how the body reacts to each of them. If you are allergic to any of the substances, then the body will show its reaction through the appearance of a small, red bump. The doctor can also carry out blood tests, or RAST. This RAST is known to measure the amount of immunoglobulin E antibodies released against the specific allergen that is present in the blood.

Treatment

There are several methods which one can try for the treatment of hay fever. Those measures can include medications as well as certain home remedies. First, it is important to speak to your doctor before you try out any of the home treatments or over-the-counter options. The treatments include:

  • Antihistamines: The doctor can prescribe antihistamines to treat allergic reactions. They are known to work by stopping the body from making the histamine chemical in the body. Below are a few of the popular over-the-counter antihistamines:
    • Loratadine, cetirizine, fexofenadine, levocetirizine, diphenhydramine, and desloratadine.
  • Before starting or stopping any medication, it is important to have a word with the doctor. Also, in the case of any new medication, be sure that this new medicine does not cause any kind of interference with the other medications or medical conditions present.
  • Nasal sprays or eye drops: There are nasal sprays or eye drops that are known to provide relief from itchiness as well as any other symptoms related to allergies. But they are said to provide relief for only a short duration. Based on what the product it is, one may need to avoid long-term use of those items. Similar to the effects of decongestants, constant overuse of eye drops or nasal sprays is known to cause certain rebounding effects on the health of the individual. Corticosteroids are known to be helpful with the immune system responses as well as inflammation. They are not known to cause any kind of rebound effect. However, it is ideal to first speak to your doctor before you go ahead and start any form of treatment just to ensure that you are taking the medication that best suits your body and also provides relief from your allergy symptoms.
  • Immunotherapy: Doctors can also recommend to try immunotherapy, or they may suggest allergy shots if the allergies are becoming very severe. This treatment option can be done in combination with or in conjunction with other medications to control the symptoms. These immunotherapy shots are known to reduce the response of the immune system to certain kinds of allergens over a period of time. But this kind of treatment option does need a long-term commitment. This process is known to start with a build-up phase, and during this phase’s plan, you would need to visit an allergist who would administer the shot. This would need to be done at least one to three times each week for a period of three to six months. The main purpose of these shots is to get the body used to the allergens that are present in the shot so that the immune system won’t overreact.
  • Home remedies: There are multiple home remedies for treating allergic reactions, but it all depends on which type of allergen is causing the issue in the individual. If you are suffering from pollen allergies or the seasonal kind of allergies, try using your air conditioner instead of keeping the windows open and, if possible, try also to add a filter that is specially designed for allergies. You can also go in for a dehumidifier or a HEPA filter, which can keep your allergies in check and stop them from getting indoors. Be sure to keep the house clean and neat to avoid any presence of allergens.