Most of us are allergy sufferers, or know someone who is. Whether seasonal or year-round, or outdoors rather than indoors, they can be for some a mild inconvenience, while others can experience debilitating symptoms that affect their job performance. Here is a look at hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis, its symptoms, as well as some of the more effective treatments available today.
Hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is the immune system's response to microscopic particles present at certain times of the year, usually during the spring, summer and fall, such as wind-borne pollen, ragweed and mold. Allergic rhinitis can also cause suffering year-round with such irritants found indoors as dust mites, mold, animal dander, feathers, and chemicals. Allergies affect more than one in five people and it is common for sufferers to be affected by more than one type of irritant. Hay fever is the most common allergic occurrence, and there is evidence that hay fever and other allergies are hereditary, or passed down from parents to children. It is likely that asthma and eczema sufferers will develop hay fever or perennial (year-round) allergic rhinitis.
Hay Fever Symptoms
The immune system overreacts to allergens in allergy sufferers by releasing histamine into the bloodstream. Histamine causes hay fever symptoms which may imitate those of a cold, such as burning, itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, coughing, shortness of breath, sneezing and sinus pressure, a temporary loss of the sense of smell, headache, fatigue, dark circles under the eyes, and postnasal drip. Hay fever can affect a person's ability to function in their daily routine.
Hay Fever Treatment
While there is no cure, the best treatment is to simply avoid whatever triggers allergic episodes. Allergic rhinitis can be controlled through a variety of means, including proper hygiene and drug therapies. Air conditioner filters can remove up to 99% of airborne pollen. Face masks can be helpful in reducing hay fever symptoms. Drug therapies are effective in providing relief for hay fever symptoms. Drug options include antihistamines, cromolyn and nasal steroids.Antihistamines are usually the first drug option; while they don't prevent the production of histamine they can relieve some hay fever symptoms. Caution should be used with any antihistamine, as they can cause drowsiness.Decongestants provide relief from allergies by unblocking nasal passages. Care should be taken when using over-the-counter decongestants, as they can actually worsen hay fever symptoms after a few days use.Cromolyn can be an effective long-term treatment for allergic rhinitis; while it may take a few weeks to experience its benefits, Cromolyn has relatively few side effects.Steroid nasal sprays available by prescription under the names Rhinocort, Beconase, Flonase, Veramyst, Vancenase, Nasonex, Nasalide, and fluticasone can limit reactions to allergies.
Other over-the-counter treatments include nasal saline sprays and eye drops. Saline sprays help keep nasal passages moist and can help to flush out allergens. Eye drops can relieve eye discomfort that accompanies allergies. Because a variety of over-the-counter treatments are available, care should be taken to discuss with your doctor any possible drug interactions from medicine you are already taking. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, can help allergy sufferers increase their tolerance of allergens. Gradually larger doses of allergen are injected into the arm. Allergy shots are a highly effective treatment for allergic rhinitis, especially for people who suffer from their allergies longer than one season.Allergic rhinitis is not the end of the world, nor is it something to be ignored. With consideration over what sort of allergens trigger hay fever symptoms and a doctor's guidance to find the most effective treatments, the hay fever sufferer can expect relief from their allergies.