Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is a common term for seasonal allergies. This simply means inflammation inside the nose. Hay fever causes cold-like signs and symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing, and sinus pressure. Hay fever is not caused by a virus. It is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens such as pollen, molds, dust mites, animal dander, and tiny flecks of skin in the air.
Like other types of allergies, hay fever results when the immune system attacks the substance that comes across in a person’s environment. This condition affects some 40 million to 60 million Americans and a person with the following, may be more likely to get it:
- Asthma or other allergies
- Parents or siblings with allergies
- A home or job where one is exposed to allergens regularly
A person with hay fever can experience:
- Runny nose and nasal congestion
- Watery, itchy, red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
- Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
- Postnasal drip
Causes of Hay Fever
The immune system of a person who has hay fever identifies a harmless airborne substance as harmful. When this person comes into contact with this airborne substance, the antibodies signal the immune system to release histamine into the bloodstream causing a reaction that leads to signs of hay fever.
When to See a Doctor
- See a doctor if your allergy symptoms are interfering with your quality of life
- If your fever does not go away
- The over-the-counter medicines you take don’t work or have unpleasant side effects
- If you have other problems such as asthma, chronic sinus infections or polyps in your nose
Stay away from triggers as much as possible, because it may take several tries to ease hay fever symptoms. These are the medicines that doctors may suggest or prescribe:
Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays
These are used long-term to treat symptoms such as itching, runny nose, and congestion. This medicine provides relief within 12 hours of the first dose.
These can be pills or in the form of nasal sprays, and eye drops. They effectively reduce runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes and skin.
Decongestants relieve the swelling inside your nose that makes it stuffy. Do not use nose drops and sprays longer than 5 days.
This over-the-counter nasal spray is used several times a day to stop the release of histamines. It works best when you start before symptoms show up.
This medicine hinders leukotrienes, or chemicals in the immune system that causes the body to make extra mucus. Leukotriene helps when the symptoms come with mild asthma.
This medicine comes in a nose spray and helps prevent extra runny nose. Do not take this medicine if you have glaucoma or an enlarged prostate gland.
This treatment is taken to make the body less reactive to allergens. It does not work for every allergen though. It seems to help most with common environmental triggers.