Hay fever is an allergy that produces symptoms similar to a cold, but a cold virus does not cause it. It is caused by an immune system response to allergens, like dust mites, pet dander or pollen.
When you have hay fever, your immune system identifies a harmless airborne substance as a threat. Your immune system will then produce antibodies to this substance. Then when you come in contact with the substance again, the antibodies will signal your immune system to release chemicals such as histamine, which causes a reaction that leads to the symptoms of hay fever.
Hay fever can make you feel miserable, and interfere with your quality of life, but you don’t have to tolerate bothersome symptoms. You can learn to identify the triggers and find the right treatment to help relieve your symptoms.
SYMPTOMS of HAY FEVER INCLUDE:
- Runny nose and nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy, watery, red eyes
- Itchy nose, throat or mouth
- Postnasal drip
HAY FEVER CAN ALSO CAUSE:
- Poor sleep
- Ear infection
- Worsening asthma
IS IT a COMMON COLD or HAY FEVER?
The difference between hay fever and a cold:
- Runny nose with thin, watery discharge
- Starts as soon as exposed to allergens
- Lasts as long as you’re exposed to allergens
- Runny nose with watery or thick discharge, fever and body aches
- Starts within 1-3 days after exposure to a cold virus
- Lasts for about 3-7 days
SEASONAL and ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS:
It’s not just hay that causes hay fever; it can be caused by a number of indoor or outdoor culprits. Hay fever can be triggered at different times of the year by:
- Ragweed, grass or tree pollen
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
- Indoor and outdoor molds spoors
WHO’S MOST LIKELY TO HAVE HAY FEVER?
The following can increase your risk of developing hay fever:
- If you have asthma
- Having other allergies
- Having atopic dermatitis
- Being in an environment where you are continually exposed to allergens — such as animal dander from living with pets
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
A doctor can diagnose hay fever by using a skin prick test or an allergy blood test.
HOW CAN YOU GET RELIEF?
- Limit your exposure to the substances that cause your hay fever.
- You may be able to relieve your symptoms by using over the counter medications.
- Many people get the best relief from a combination of medications. You may need to try a few to find which ones work best for you.
MEDICATIONS FOR HAY FEVER INCLUDE:
- Nasal corticosteroids
- Cromolyn sodium
- Leukotriene modifier
- Nasal ipratropium
- Oral corticosteroids
OTHER TREATMENTS FOR HAY FEVER INCLUDE:
- Allergy shots – If you don’t get relief from medications, your doctor may recommend allergy shots.
- Allergy tablets – Instead of getting shots, you can dissolve a pill in your mouth.
- Rinsing your sinuses – Rinsing your nasal passages with saline is an effective way to relieve nasal congestion by flushing out mucus and allergens from your nose.
LIFESTYLE CHANGES and HOME REMEDIES
You can’t avoid allergens entirely, but you can limit your exposure to them. If you’re sensitive to:
MOLD OR POLLEN:
- Use air conditioning in your car and home.
- Keep doors and windows closed to keep pollen out.
- Use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity.
- Use a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter in your home.
- Wear a dust mask when cleaning or gardening.
- Avoid outdoor activity when pollen counts are high.
- Stay indoors on windy days.
- Avoid raking leaves or mowing the lawn.
- Use allergy-proof covers on pillows and mattresses.
- Wash sheets and blankets in hot water.
- Spray insecticide to kill dust mites in your home.
- Vacuum carpets weekly – remove carpets if you’re highly sensitive to dust mites.
- Keep your home clean to reduce pet dander.
- Bathe dogs twice a week, if possible.
- Keep pets off your bed.