What Is Hay Fever?
Close to 18
million Americans are affected by hay fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hay fever is also known as allergic
rhinitis or nasal allergies. Hay fever occurs when your body’s immune system
recognizes a normally harmless substance as an intruder. These substances are
called allergens. The most common allergens that cause hay fever are pollen
released in the air by trees, grass, and weeds. It can also be triggered by
allergens in your house like pet dander and dust.
When you are
exposed to an allergen that your body interprets as an intruder, your body
releases chemicals to act as defense against the allergen. One type of chemical
that your body releases is histamine. The release of histamine results in symptoms
that are very similar to a cold, like a runny nose and sneezing. Hay fever symptoms
can make you miserable and affect your day-to-day activities and your
performance at work or school.
Despite its name, hay
fever doesn’t mean that you are allergic to hay. It also doesn’t cause a fever.
Hay fever is not contagious.
What Are the Symptoms of Hay
Hay fever symptoms
usually start right after you are exposed to the allergen. This is because your
immune system mistakenly identifies the substance as something harmful. Your
immune system will then begin to produce antibodies to this substance. The
antibodies signal your immune system to release certain chemicals, like
histamine, into your bloodstream. These chemicals cause a reaction that bring
about the symptoms of hay fever.
Hay fever symptoms
that start immediately after you’re exposed to a specific allergen include:
red, or itchy eyes
throat or roof of the mouth
pressure and pain
Symptoms that may
develop later on include:
sense of smell
circles under the eyes (allergic shiners)
under the eyes
Hay fever can also
cause many other problems, including:
asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and coughing, if you have asthma
quality of life as symptoms may make activities less enjoyable or cause you to
be less productive at work and school, or even need to stay home from work or
infections, especially in children
conjunctivitis (eye allergy), which occurs when the allergen irritates the
conjunctiva, the delicate membrane that covers the eye
of the sinuses (sinusitis) due to persistent sinus congestion
the Symptoms of Hay Fever Worse?
Your symptoms may be different at different
times of the year. It depends on where you live and what types of allergies you
have. Tree pollen, grasses, and weeds, all bloom at different times of the year:
pollen is more common in the spring.
pollen is more common in late spring and summer.
pollen is more common in the fall.
spores can be worse during warmer or more humid weather.
allergies can be worse on hot, dry days when the wind carries the pollen.
However, if you
are allergic to indoor allergens, you may have hay fever symptoms all year
round. Indoor allergens include:
and fungal spores
For some people, mild
symptoms are present all year long, but they get worse during certain times of
the year. Hay fever symptoms can also be made worse from other irritants. This
is because hay fever causes inflammation in the lining of the nose and makes it
more sensitive to irritants in the air. These irritants include:
How Do the Symptoms of Hay Fever
Differ From a Cold?
symptoms of hay fever and the symptoms of the common cold are very similar
there are a few differences in the start, duration, and signs of each ailment.
Hay fever begins
immediately after exposure to an allergen. Colds begin one to three days after
exposure to a virus.
Hay fever lasts
for as long as you are exposed to the allergens, typically several weeks. Colds
usually last just three to seven days.
Hay fever produces
a runny nose with a thin, watery discharge. Colds cause a runny nose with
thicker discharge that may be yellow in color.
Hay fever does not cause a fever. Colds
typically cause a low-grade fever.
When Should I Visit a Doctor for
The symptoms of
hay fever are almost never immediately dangerous, but they can be very
bothersome. See your doctor if any of the following occurs:
symptoms last longer than a week and are bothersome to you.
allergy medications aren’t helping you.
have another condition, like asthma, that are making your hay fever symptoms
fever occurs all year round.
symptoms are severe.
allergy medications you may be taking are causing bothersome side effects.
are interested in learning if allergy shots or immunotherapy are a good option