Hay fever or “allergic rhinitis” is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life. Hay fever is caused by a reaction which is caused by allergens like the plant’s pollen.
During the pollination season, billions of microscopic pollen grains fill the air.
Pollen is a powdery substance (containing pollen grain) which is released by plants. Pollen contains proteins which cause allergy of eyes, nose, sinuses, and throat. It causes irritation, swelling, and inflammation.
The examples of spring bloomers are elm, cedar, birch, ash, maple trees and many species of grass. During late summer and fall, weed pollination is high which can be the cause of hay fever.
A person can get hay fever at any age. In most of the cases, it begins in childhood or during the teenage. Hay fever mostly occurs in boys as compared to girls.
Adult women and men have equal chances of getting affected. The family history also plays an important role in affecting people. The person having a family history of allergies like, eczema or asthma are more at risk to develop hay fever.
Allergens Causing Hay Fever
Following pollens can cause allergic reactions leading to hay fever:
- Grass pollen, which is released during the end of spring and the beginning of summer season.
- Ragweed pollen, which spreads during the fall season
- Tree pollen released during the spring season
- weed pollen, released during late autumn
- Spores from outdoor or an indoor fungus
- Dust mites from pets can also cause Hay fever (seasonal and perennial)
The number and type of pollen present in the air can be counted to ensure the cleanliness of air and to reduce the chances of pollen allergy.
For this purpose, scientists set a trap which is a glass rod or plate coated with adhesive. The trap is analyzed, and the number of particles collected on plate or rod is counted (pollens per cubic meter) one by one under the microscope. This trap is effective for pollen counts as well as mold counts.
Hay fever causes many allergic reactions. These symptoms of allergic hay fever usually resemble those of cold.
But unlike cold, the symptoms of allergies usually appear as soon as a person encounters an allergen. Some of the symptoms of hay fever are following
- Postnasal drip
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Watery, red eyes
- Itchy nose
- Sinus pressure
When a person encounters an allergen, then their immune system reacts to it. The immune system reacts to protect the vital and sensitive respiratory system from invaders. Antibodies are produced by the body to fight with the invaders.
During this activity, various allergic responses are produced.
The symptoms of hay fever can appear at any age, but most people show allergic reactions in childhood or early adulthood. The severity of symptoms reduces as the personages. In most of the cases, children may first experience itchy skin or some food allergies, before the start of hay fever symptoms. The symptoms of itchy skin or food allergies worsen over the years and then the person starts to develop allergies to indoor allergens, like tree pollen, grass pollen, molds or ragweed.
Currently, there is no cure for hay fever. Some precautions can help in reducing the severity of symptoms, at least to a certain extent.
One of the most effective ways to control hay fever is to avoid exposure to allergens, like pollens. Generally, it is very difficult to avoid the exposure to pollen as these are present in the air.
Other treatments can also be used. Like, the use of antihistamines can be effective as these help in the prevention of allergic reaction. Corticosteroids are also effective in reducing swelling and inflammation.
Generally, the symptoms of Hay fever disappear with the use of these medications but if the symptoms persist, then talk to your doctor.
For the severe symptoms of hay fever “immunotherapy” can be used to relieve the condition.
During immunotherapy, the person is exposed to a small amount of allergen (pollen) over time. In this way, the person gradually develops resistance against that allergen. This process can take months or even years to work.
Hay fever is not a life-threatening disease but still, it can have a negative impact on the quality of a person’s life. The persistent symptoms of hay fever can also cause some complications.
One of the complications associated with hay fever is “sinusitis”. Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinuses. Another complication associated with hay fever is “middle ear infection”. Children are at high risk of developing middle ear infection associated with hay fever.
In some cases, hay fever can also lead to other medical conditions, like asthma. During weed allergy, the person is more likely to develop other allergies leading to asthma. The chances of asthma caused by weed allergy can be reduced by suitable immunotherapies, like allergy shots. The allergy shots increase the person’s immunity against allergens.
The Persistent symptoms of hay fever can cause serve complications. Therefore, the person should consult a doctor if the following conditions persist
- If, hay fever symptoms persist for a longer time
- If the allergy medications are not providing relief
- If the allergic medications are causing side effects
- If the person also has another condition that can worsen the symptoms of hay fever, like sinus infections, asthma or nasal polyps
For the diagnosis of hay fever, a physician asks about the patient history of allergies and performs a physical examination.
To confirm the results, a doctor can also perform an allergy test.
For this purpose, a skin-prick test is performed. In this test, the doctor pricks the skin of a person with various substances and observes the allergic reaction to substances. Blood tests are also available for allergies.
The symptoms of hay fever can be prevented by taking a few precautions, such as:
- Avoid outdoor exposures during the pollen season, when the pollen count is high (around 50 pollens per cubic meter of the air)
- During outdoor activities, wear sunglasses to lower the chances of eye allergy caused by pollen
- After outdoors activities, the person should take a shower and change his/her clothes, so that the pollens don’t get stick to the body.
- Apply Vaseline (petroleum gel) to the nasal openings, so that pollen grains don’t enter the respiratory tract.