Hay Fever

1 What Is Hay Fever?

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction characterized by symptoms that resemble the common cold. Sneezing, running nose, and itching are the common symptoms of this reaction. It is caused by an allergic response to airborne allergens like pollen. Symptoms may range from mild to serious.

For some people, the symptoms of hay fever may be persistent and serious, affecting their daily activities, while for others, they remain mild.

Serious symptoms may require treatment to reduce their impact. It usually develops during childhood or early adulthood. The symptoms may become less severe with age. 

In certain cases, hay fever can be confused with some other medical condition, such as the flu virus or common cold. A cold usually develops five to seven days once an individual is exposed to the cold virus, and the symptoms include a runny nose along with a watery or thick, yellow discharge, followed by fever in certain cases. Allergies have not been associated with fever and are mostly known to occur once an individual has been exposed to the triggering pollen or allergen.

2 Symptoms

Major symptoms of hay fever include:

Hay fever may be a seasonal allergy and the symptoms appear or worsen during a particular season. Hay fever due to tree pollen usually appears during spring.

Allergies caused by dust mites and cockroaches may occur throughout the year. The symptoms may worsen when the house is closed.

3 Causes

An exaggerated response by the immune system to airborne allergens is the main cause of hay fever.

When exposed to an allergen like pollen, the body produces antibodies against it. With continued exposure, the antibodies trigger the release of histamines. Histamines are responsible for the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Having asthma or other allergies increases the risk of hay fever.

Family history, environments laden with allergens, and atopic dermatitis are risk factors for hay fever. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

A history of symptoms and a physical examination help in the diagnosis of hay fever.

A skin prick test and blood test are commonly used to check the body’s reaction to an allergen. In the skin test, small amounts of the suspected allergen are administered to the skin. An allergic reaction to the substance results in the formation of hives.

The blood level of antibodies that launch an allergic reaction also helps to diagnose an allergy towards a specific substance.

The sensitivity of antibodies in the blood to a specific allergen is tested for confirmation.

Other conditions that cause similar symptoms should be ruled out before making a definitive diagnosis of an allergy. 

5 Treatment

Mild symptoms of hay fever can be treated by using over-the-counter medications. Prescription medications are suggested for severe symptoms.

Some of the common medications used in the treatment of hay fever are:

  • Nasal corticosteroids: These medications prevent inflammation in the nasal chambers. This avoids itching and runny nose. Some common corticosteroids are fluticasone propionate, triamcinolone, and mometasone. They are generally recommended for long-term use.
  • Antihistamines: These prevent common symptoms like itching, sneezing, and runny nose.
  • Decongestants: These are available in oral tablet and nasal spray form. They help to decongest the nasal cavities.
  • Cromolyn sodium: This prevents the release of histamines that cause typical symptoms of disease.
  • Leukotriene modifier: These medications block the chemicals that cause hay fever symptoms.
  • Ipratropium: This relieves runny nose by blocking the production of excess fluid.
  • Corticosteroids: Oral corticosteroids are used to relieve allergy symptoms.
  • Immunotherapy, or desensitization: In this method, shots of small extracts of the allergen are administered for a few years. The body gradually gets used to the allergen, and this reduces the allergic reaction.
  • Sublingual tablets: In this, tiny packets of the allergen are kept under the tongue.

6 Prevention

Avoiding airborne allergens is difficult, so preventing hay fever is as well.

One can reduce the severity of symptoms by reducing exposure to allergens.

Try to stay indoors and keep the windows shut to keep pollen out. Opening a window to let in fresh air is a quick fix for a stuffy house. But for those suffering from allergies, especially year-round hay fever, this can prove to be quite aggravating in terms of symptoms. Thus, it is advisable to keep windows closed at night, mostly when the pollen count is above average.

Wash your hair and clean your clothes after going outdoors. This removes allergens as much as possible from the body. Sunglasses also prevent pollen to a large extent. 

Every individual who arrives home after a long day at work or from being outside would probably first make themselves comfortable before changing clothes. But for those suffering from hay fever, they should change their clothes as soon as they walk in the door since, when you are outside, there are chances that the pollen can stick to your clothes or hair, and as you walk inside, you disperse the pollen. This encourages the symptoms of hay fever to stick around for a long time. So, as a precaution, it is best to change your clothes and have a nice, warm bath to clean yourself and hair.

For those suffering from hay fever, it is advisable to routinely change the bedsheets, as pollen not only sticks to your clothes, but can also cling to the pillow and bedsheets. Also, do not dry your sheets or pillow case in the open air since it will lead to pollen getting stuck to the sheets. Try to dry the sheets inside a room where there is ample sunlight, over a clothes rack in the bedroom, for example.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative remedies exist for hay fever. Some of the simpler methods include:

  • A neti pot
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Coating the nostrils

Nasal irrigation is not complex through the use of a neti pot to flush out the mucus that has thickened, along with other irritants from the sinuses. This is done with the help of a prepared saltwater rinse. You can use saline water that is free from any contamination, such as sterile or distilled. Be sure to rinse the irrigation device after every use with sterile water and then leave it open to air dry.

An anti-allergic diet can also be used to control symptoms. Such a diet would contain:

  • Healthy fats and oils
  • Onions
  • Raw honey
  • Spices

These are suggested for controlling hay fever. Other helpful dietary additions include:

  • Vitamin A: Vitamin A is known to be beneficial in maintaining the health of the mucus membranes. This is particularly beneficial in the case of hay fever if the individual experiences constant inflammation of the mucus membranes.
  • Vitamin C: Research has shown that supplementation of vitamin C has antihistamine effects and it is also known to play an important role in supporting a healthy immune system.
  • Garlic: Garlic is known to possess highly anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. These properties help to boost the health of the immune system, thereby blocking the main cause of hay fever. It also provides strength to the body.
  • Honey: Honey is said to be a good natural remedy, but it takes time for it to show some effect. Local honey is the preferred option. When local honey is ingested, it helps to create immunity to allergens. Try consuming local honey throughout the year so that you reap the maximum benefits from it. However, start consuming in small quantities so that the body gets used to it.
  • Antioxidants: Flavonoids, which are mostly found in fresh fruits and vegetables, are said to prevent the production of histamine from the immune cells. Carotenoids, which are mostly found in orange food items such as pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and carrots, are said to promote the unblocking and opening up of the airways. Antioxidants are also known to help boost the immune system.
  • Horseradish: This is considered to be a peppery and pungent root vegetable that acts as a decongestant. Horseradish is known to clear out the nasal passages and hence is a great remedy for treating the symptoms of hay fever. When the horseradish root is cut down or broken, the enzymes start to break down the chemical compound sinigrin into a pungent compound known as allyl isothiocyanate. This aids the body in draining the nasal mucus membranes and sinuses. When you cook horseradish, it is meant to be consumed immediately, or else it will start to change color and lose its powerful strength.
  • Herbal teas: Intake of fluid is essential when one is dealing with an allergic reaction. If consuming water all the time sounds boring, you can also opt for herbal teas, which provide many benefits in addition to keeping you hydrated. Ginger tea along with raw honey helps to break down the congestion present in the chest as well as loosens the phlegm. Ginger tea acts as a natural antihistamine that also strengthens the immune system. Peppermint tea is said to provide relief from sinus and nasal congestion. Licorice tea helps reduce the irritation in the respiratory system. Green tea is good for the overall health of the body and is said to block the production of histamine, along with strengthening the immune system. Tea made from nettle is beneficial in providing relief from respiratory tract inflammation and easing the itching, nasal congestion, and sneezing, which are a common concern with allergies.
  • Rosemary: Rosemary is known to suppress the immunoglobulin responses as well as inflammation.

It is advisable to avoid or limit the intake of cow’s milk and any other dairy products, since it can lead to greater production of mucus in the respiratory tract, thus leading to an increase in nasal congestion caused by hay fever. You can try dairy alternatives, such as rice, coconut, or nut milks.

Some common homeopathic remedies for hay fever are:

  • Allium cepa
  • Arsenicum album
  • Euphrasia
  • Natrum muriaticum
  • Nux vomica
  • Pulsatilla pratensis
  • Sulphur

Herbal remedies and acupuncture are also methods to reduce the impact of symptoms. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to prevent hay fever.

It is difficult to avoid all possible allergens that cause hay fever.

Taking extra care to keep the pollens or allergens out of the house help to avoid hay fever.

Using a dehumidifier and high-efficiency particulate filter will help reduce the allergens as much as possible. 

9 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with hay fever.

Symptoms of hay fever may affect daily activities and result in poor sleep.

Hay fever may worsen the symptoms of asthma. In some people, it may increase the risk of sinusitis and ear infection

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