Sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and nasal congestion are all symptoms everyone has experienced at some point in their lifetime and have often leads people to ask “What is hay fever?” and wondering if they are suffering from it. Hay fever has very similar symptoms to the common cold, however, the cause of hay fever is very different.
So, what is hay fever? Hay fever, commonly known as seasonal allergies, is caused by your immune system thinking pollen or another allergen that you inhaled is a dangerous substance invading your body. Your immune system then goes into overdrive to try to get the allergen out of your body by creating histamine and leukotrienes. Histamine and leukotrienes then inflame the lining of your nasal passages, eyelids, and sinuses, and are the cause of other symptoms of hay fever such as sneezing and coughing. Your body is trying to protect itself by trying to get rid of the allergen or swelling different areas to prevent the allergen from entering.
Symptoms of Hay Fever
The spring, summer, and fall are the most common times for people to ask “What is hay fever?” since these are the seasons when most people experience hay fever. This is because pollen tends to be much more present in the air causing you to be more likely to inhale it. If you have hay fever, your symptoms will include:
- Itchy nose, throat, and roof of mouth
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy eyes
- Nasal and head congestion
- Ear pressure
What types of allergens can cause hay fever?
There is a pretty wide variety of types of pollen or allergens that can induce hay fever. Certain grasses, weeds, or trees release pollen into the air throughout the spring, summer, or fall. You could also be allergic to indoor allergens, including pet dander, mold, and dust mites. Indoor allergens are called perennial allergic rhinitis because you can experience these symptoms anytime throughout the year.
How is hay fever diagnosed?
Based on your symptoms and a physical exam, your doctor will be able to tell if you have hay fever. If there is any question, your doctor could use skin and blood tests to see how your body reacts to different substances.
During a skin test, the doctor will use a tiny tube that contains different allergens and prick your back or arm with it. If you are allergic to any of the substance, your skin will get itchy, red, or swollen where it was pricked. A blood test would show if your body produces antibodies when it encounters allergy triggers. When the antibodies attach to an allergen in your nose, mouth, or eyes, your body creates histamine which induces your symptoms.
How is it treated?
The most recommended way to treat hay fever is by minimizing your interactions with what triggers your symptoms. If you have severe seasonal allergies, you should monitor pollen counts and limit being outdoors when they are high. It is also important to keep your home or yard clean to limit how many allergens are in the air.
It is also recommended to use saline sprays or nasal irrigation to help lessen the amount of allergen particles in your nose. If prevention is not possible or if your symptoms do not go away, you should speak to your doctor about over-the-counter and prescription medication.
The “What Is Hay Fever?” Search Is Over
If you would like the answer to “What is hay fever?” and how can you find relief, contact our office today to set a free consultation with one of our allergy specialists.