Hay Fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is characterized by the symptoms like runny or blocked nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes. These symptoms are all side effects of the immune system attempting to remove a pathogen or a foreign substance that has entered the body. In some individuals, the immune system is so sensitive that even the presence of a harmless substance in the system can set off its alarm.
Hay fever is caused by the presence of allergenic substances in the body like pollen, dust mites, and mould spores that are commonly found in the environment during certain time of the year. Hay fever is more prevalent during the spring and autumn seasons, indicating that it is due to the increased presence of mould spores, and pollen from grass and flowers in the air during those seasons. People suffering from pollen allergies are likely to have hay fever throughout the season. In some cases, a person may have an allergic reaction to certain foods as a cross-reaction to their allergy to pollen. For example, if you are suffering from hay fever, you are also likely to show allergic reactions like itchy mouth or throat soon after you eat certain fruits or nuts.
The symptoms of hayfever are the responses triggered by the immune system to repel foreign bodies and pathogens from entering the human body. It does this by releasing chemicals called mediators into the bloodstream. Histamine is one such mediator, which causes sneezing, runny nose, and itchy or watery eyes. With the resulting increase in the level of mucus in the respiratory system, you may suffer from post nasal drip that can cause coughing, along with a disturbing awareness of phlegm in the throat.
Sometimes, the common symptoms described above may be accompanied by headaches and facial pain stemming from blocked sinuses. It can cause discomfort and affect your sleep and other daily activities. Although the symptoms are not fatal, it can affect your personal and professional life adversely.
You can diagnose if you have hay fever by analysing the time, season and duration of your allergic symptoms. If the symptoms occur only during springtime and summer, and goes away by the end of the season, you may be suffering from hay fever. For a more holistic diagnosis of your condition, you can approach your local physician or allergist and they can recommend various skin tests to identify what you are allergic to.
In a skin-test, the allergist puts a few drops of different allergens on your skin and watches if there are any reactions. If you develop an itchy swelling in response to one of the allergens, it is likely that you are allergic to that substance.
In another allergy test called the intradermal testing, the doctor injects a small amount of different allergens on different spots under your skin with a needle. After fifteen or twenty minutes, if there is a swelling or itching on one or more spots, it could mean that you are allergic to those substances. Sometimes, doctors may use a blood test to evaluate the levels of antibodies produced by your immune system and prescribe the right hayfever treatment plan.
The best hayfever treatment is to stay away from the allergens causing the symptoms, but during certain times in a year, it may be very difficult to do so. Keep over the counter anti-allergy drugs handy at home for immediate relief from the symptoms. A nasal spray is useful too when travelling to places with high levels of pollen.
Hay fever is found to be quite common in children. If you have a hard time getting your child to take regular anti-allergy tablets, you can try flavoured oral allergy relief solutions. Always remember to thoroughly read the instructions and age recommendation before using any medication for your child.