Hayfever; It’s not really caused by ‘hay’ at all. Medically, hayfever is referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis because for most people it only happens at certain times of the year. Rhinitis means inflammation of the nasal membranes, and hayfever causes just that.
What causes hayfever?
Pollen is the male reproductive part of plants and trees that fertilise other plants of the same species. These small grains contain a large number of allergic proteins that are invisible to the naked eye but are the cause of hayfever. Plants produce pollen at different times of the year, but the most common is grass pollen.
Pollen is extremely light and is carried by the air over long periods of time; and, while insects carry pollen as well, airborne pollen is the main culprit of hayfever. Once pollen reaches the nose, eyes, or lungs of a person allergic to pollen, an allergic reaction is caused. This is known as hayfever. The main pollen that causes hayfever is that of grasses, trees, and herbaceous plants.
Recognising hayfever symptoms
Both seasonal hayfever and year-round allergic rhinitis have the same symptoms, however they vary in severities. Hayfever symptoms come from a reaction in the nose, throat, and eyes. Once a person has developed an allergic reaction to particular pollen any further contact with that pollen will stimulate the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals causing a hayfever allergy.
The symptoms of a hayfever allergy include:
- a runny nose
- stuffy nose
- itching of the eyes, nose, and back of the throat
- itching of the eyes causing watery produce and inflammation, also called conjunctivitis
- dark appearance under the eyes caused by inflammation in the sinuses
- loss of smell and taste
- sensitivity to light
- asthma may worsen
Hayfever often makes people feel irritable and listless and may make it difficult to enjoy work, social activities, and work.
How can I avoid it?
While the general suggestion to preventing an allergy is to avoid provoking the allergen, this may be hard to do considering the fact that most pollen is airborne. However, you can help the symptoms be less intense by following these simple tips:
- Keep your window closed in the early morning and late afternoon hours as pollen tends to rise during these times of the day.
- When it’s pollen season, drive with your car windows shut and fit and effective pollen filter.
- Avoid mowing the lawn.
- Wear sunglasses to help prevent eye irritation from airborne pollen.
- Shower and change your clothes when you come home as pollen often clings to your clothing and hair.
- Dry washed laundry indoors during the pollen season.
- Avoid things like smoking and air pollution that will worsen the symptoms of hayfever.
- Consult your healthcare provider or pharmacist about the use of a quality anti-allergy treatment like Zirtek. It is a second generation antihistamine and is available in formats for family members from 6 years to adults.