Hay Fever Overview
also called allergic rhinitis, is a common condition affecting approximately 40
to 60 million Americans, according to the American
College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
other types of allergies, hay fever is your body’s response to an allergen,
either indoor or outdoor. These can include:
- animal dander
- dust mites
- mold spore
develop hay fever seasonally, such as during the spring or summer months when
trees and flowers are in bloom, while others have symptoms year round.
fever is an allergic response, symptoms typically start soon after exposure to
an allergen. Symptoms can be mild to severe, and may include any of the
nose, mouth, or throat
to smell or taste
Causes and Risk Factors for Hay Fever
to an allergen, your immune system creates antibodies and releases a chemical
called histamine into your bloodstream. This chemical triggers distressing hay
fever symptoms, such as watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing.
Hay fever can
happen to anyone. But some people are at higher risk for allergic rhinitis.
This includes individuals who’ve been diagnosed with asthma or who have other
allergies, and those with a family history of allergies or asthma.
Diagnosing Hay Fever
doctor or allergist can diagnose hay fever. But before doctors make a
diagnosis, they’ll ask several questions about your personal and family medical
history, and your work and home environment. These questions are designed to
provide clues about possible triggers. A routine physical exam is also part of
the diagnostic process.
There are two
tests used to diagnose hay fever.
A Skin Prick Test
A small sample
of different allergens is pricked into your skin. Doctors administer the test
in either the arm or upper back. After about 20 minutes, your doctor evaluates
your skin for an allergic response, which can include a rash or hives.
An Allergy Blood Test
If a skin
prick test doesn't offer answers, your doctor may recommend an allergy blood
test. A blood sample will be drawn from a vein in your arm. This type of test
is very specific and tests for only one type of allergen as a time.
Hay Fever Treatments
are able to minimize their hay fever symptoms by avoiding substances that
trigger a reaction. But this isn't always possible. If you can’t avoid an
allergen, several treatments are available to control symptoms. These include
prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Nasal corticosteroids: A medication that reduces nasal inflammation and runny
- Antihistamines: These medications block histamine, which is the chemical that causes
symptoms of an allergic reaction. Available over-the-counter or by
prescription, antihistamines can stop a runny nose and sneezing.
- Decongestants: A medication that shrinks swollen membranes in the nose, which helps
relieve nasal congestion caused by colds and allergies.
- Oral corticosteroids: In the case of severe allergies, your doctor may
recommend oral corticosteroids medication like prednisone. These drugs can
effectively reduce allergy symptoms, but long-term use increases the risk for
muscle weakness, osteoporosis, and cataracts.
- Nasal rinse:
Nasal irrigation or a saline rinse is another effective treatment for hay
fever. These rinses are available over-the-counter and designed to flush
allergens from your nose and reduce symptoms. Use sinus rinses as instructed.
used to treat hay fever include cromolyn sodium, leukotriene modifiers, and
symptoms of hay fever don’t improve with prescription or over-the-counter
medications. In this case, your doctor may suggest allergy shots. This therapy
helps reduce your body’s response to substances that trigger allergic
responses. Over a period of several months or years, your doctor injects small
amounts of an allergen into your body. As time progresses, the severity of your
reactions should decrease, to the point where you no longer need medication.
Prevention and Complications
There’s no way
to prevent hay fever. It can be a chronic, distressing condition that
interferes with your quality of life. Outdoor allergens might keep you stuck
indoors during the spring and summer months, and sneezing or congestion from
indoor allergies might keep you awake at night. Additionally, hay fever can
complicate asthma, and it can trigger ear infections and sinusitis.
there's no cure for hay fever. But with a diagnosis and a treatment plan, the
majority of your days can be symptom-free.