September 15, 2022
Hay Fever & Allergic Rhinitis: Symptoms, Treatment, & Relief
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, over 24 million Americans suffer from allergic rhinitis or "hay fever." It can sometimes become difficult to figure out if you are one of the many that may have hay fever and what you can do to suppress symptoms. Here are a few tips on what you can do during hay fever season.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like symptoms. These may include a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn't caused by a virus. Hay fever occurs when your immune system identifies harmless airborne substances as harmful which then causes your immune system to produce unessential antibodies to this harmless substance. These antibodies signal your immune system to release chemicals such as histamine into your bloodstream, causing a reaction that leads to the signs and symptoms of hay fever.
When is hay fever season?
Seasonal: Seasonal hay fever typically occurs in spring, summer and early fall. This is usually due to allergic sensitivity to mold, tree pollen, grass pollen and weed pollen.
Perennial: People who experience perennial hay fever can experience symptoms year-round. Perennial hay fever typically is caused by allergens that can be present at any time of year, such as dust mites, mold and pet dander.
What is the difference between hay fever and allergies?
Allergy is a broad term that encompasses all. An allergy is when your body overreacts to a foreign substance, while hay fever is a specific type of chronic allergic reaction.
For example, an allergy can be anything from pollen, food, mold, insects, pet dander, etc.
While hay fever typically is environmental allergens such as tree pollen, grass pollen, weeds as well as pet hair, dust, mold or even cigarette smoke, perfume.
How long can hay fever last?
Hay fever can last as long as you're exposed to the allergens, which can be days, weeks or even months.
Why is it called hay fever?
Hay fever is called allergic rhinitis because it causes cold-like signs and symptoms. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn't caused by a virus, and although the word “fever” is in the name, hay fever or allergies very rarely cause fever. If a fever is present along with allergy symptoms, it can usually be attributed to the common cold or a virus.
What does hay fever feel like? Symptoms of hay fever?
- Runny nose and nasal stuffiness (congestion)
- Watery, itchy, red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- Postnasal drip, mucus that runs down the back of your throat
- Hay fever rash: Hay fever rash typically occurs with the allergen coming into direct contact with the skin. The first sign of the rash is itchiness and red patches that will resemble welts with edges that are clearly defined. Skin will be swollen around. The spots may increase in size
Hay fever triggers
If you suffer from seasonal hay fever, your hay fever signs and symptoms may occur year-round or may start or worsen at a particular time of year .
Hay fever triggers include:
Trees are the first plants to begin their mating process (which, after all, is what pollen is all about), releasing their pollen in late winter and early spring:
- Mountain cedar
While there are hundreds of types of grasses, only a few cause allergy symptoms. Grass pollination season begins in late spring and peaks in summer:
- Kentucky Blue
- Sweet Vernal
Weed season is typically the shortest allergy season, but some say it can be the worst pollen season. Weeds begin pollinating in late August to mid-October:
- Burning bush
- Lamb’s quarters
- Sage brush
- Russian thistle
Environmental allergens that can trigger hay fever:
- Dust mites and cockroach droppings
- Pet dander
- Spores from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds
Symptoms also may be triggered by common irritants such as:
- Cigarette smoke
- Strong odors, such as perfume, or hair spray and fumes
- Cleaning solutions, pool chlorine, car exhaust and other air pollutants (i.e., ozone)
- Air fresheners
Problems that may go along with hay fever include:
Hay fever can create many complications to those throughout allergy season, which is why we recommend coming in to see an allergist and getting your allergies treated!
- Reduced quality of life. Especially with hay fever being year-round, it can interfere with the enjoyment of your activities, to spend less time outdoors, or even lead to missing work or school.
- Poor sleep. Due to congestion, it can make it difficult to breathe at night (especially when lying down) making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. This leads to feelings of fatigue and unrest.
- Worsening asthma. Due to the coughing and wheezing symptoms of hay fever, this can worsen the condition of your asthma.
- Sinusitis. You may increase your risk of getting sinusitis — an infection or inflammation of the membrane that lines the sinuses — due to prolonged sinus congestion caused by hay fever.
Hay fever prevention:
Managing pollen allergies is a multi-step process, and patients need to be actively involved in their care. Along with visiting your primary care doctor or allergist and taking medication as prescribed, it's important to find ways to reduce your exposure to pollen.
- Use over-the-counter sterile saline eye drops and/or nasal spray frequently to flush out pollen from your eyes and nasal passages.
- During pollen season, close your windows and use the air conditioner at home and in your car.
- If you're especially allergic to tree pollen, try to avoid wooded areas, especially in the early spring when tree pollen is most prevalent.
- Change your clothes when you get in from outside and keep pollen out of your home by showering and washing your hair immediately.
- And for perennial hay fever, try some of these tips!
Hay fever treatment options
Over-the-counter and prescription allergy medications, including antihistamines and anti-inflammatory nasal sprays, can help relieve symptoms. If you know you know your pollen allergies are worse in early spring, start taking your allergy medications two weeks before symptoms are at their worst. Talk with your doctor about which medication is best for you. Pre-medicate with an antihistamine and/or corticosteroid nasal nasal spray 2 hours prior to an anticipated allergen exposure. For eye allergies, use eye drops as needed.
Many people — especially children — get used to hay fever symptoms, so they might not seek treatment until the symptoms become severe. But getting the right treatment might offer relief.
Long-term relief treatments:
Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy): Works by injecting a small amount of the allergen into the body and gradually increasing the amount over time. This allows the body to become familiar with the allergen and train the immune system to not overreact over time. This procedure is done in the clinic either weekly or bi-weekly. These are a great option for patients who like a routine!
Allergy Drops (Sublingual Immunotherapy): Allergy drops are great for those who are on the go, and have busy schedules. Drops are to be taken under the tongue and work in the same way as shots, slowly introducing the body to the allergen. These are convenient, affordable, and kids love them!
ExACT Immunoplasty: Our ExACT treatment is our newest, most innovative treatment! This treatment effectively eliminates allergies in just 3 appointments! This treatment is a great option for those who are looking to get rid of allergies fast and easy!
Hay fever is something that is hard to live with, it causes a lot of stress and pain on the body, which can truly affect your quality of life. It’s time to put an end to the suffering and get treated for your allergies. Book your appointment today!