OverviewAllergic rhinitis, commonly called hay fever, is an allergy characterized by sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose and a burning sensation of the palate and throat. Hay fever is usually caused by allergies to airborne substances such as dust, moulds, pollens, animal fur and feathers.
It is often aggravated by a food allergy, the most common being an allergy to milk.
IntroductionWith hay fever season just around the corner, now might be a good time to reflect on some of the important facts concerning the condition, including what it is, its causes and its impact on children and adults.
Hayfever is defined as an inflammation of the lining of the nose and throat as a result of an allergy to pollen. The condition itself does not of course cause a fever and frequently has nothing to do with hay. The condition ordinarily manifests itself in the late teenage years but it can also start earlier than this.
Allergic RhinitisAllergic Rhinitis is the medical term for hay fever. In less technical lingo, rhinitis is simply an allergy to pollen or other airborne allergens. Hay fever is particularly prevelant among pre-teen children with studies showing figures of 2 in every 5 children as occasionaly or persistently affected by this illness. Seasonal hay fever is at its peak durrng the spring and summer when pollen is at its most abundant.
Other than just the dynamics unique to the different seasons of the year, certain circumstances leave one more predisposed to a hay fever attack than others. The outdoors for instance, is a more fertile ground for an attack, than the indoors for obvious reasons: there is moro pollen in the atmosphere outdoors, than there is indoors. In addition, hotter days that are accompanied by unusually strong gusts of wind, lead to increased incidents of hay fever.
Rhinitis is actually the result of the body fighting the inhaled pollen or other airborne allergens, leading to changes in the body's respiratory system, that then causes the sneezing, teary eyes and runny nose that are the typical characteristics of this allergy.
In children, hay fever is sometimes as much a result of the exposure to pollen as it is genetic. If either parent had or still has problems with hay fever, then the chances of the son or daughter being particularly prone to the allergy, is a notch higher than the average.
When one looks at the high number of children that are affected by rhinitis each year, it is clear that it is quite difficult for a parent to completely shield their child from having to contend with this.
In order not to affect children's schoolwork, medication that is non drowsy is the best alternative. This of course must be coupled with appropriate behaviour change, and environment awareness e.g. keeping windows shut in the home during windy spring or summer days, and instead relying on the air conditioning to manage room temperature.
But adults are not immune to this condition. Actually, during the spring and summer seasons, the allergy is one of the medical conditions that have the most impact on productivity and the general work environment.
Since rhinitis is often not considered an illness strong enough, to lead to one taking the day off, organizations can easily end up with an office, where employees may be present, but their productivity is so hindered, that their absence might have been a more effective alternative.
Of course if you happen to be the employee suffering from hay fever, your work will not be the only thing troubling your mind. The continuous wheezing, sneezing and nose blowing is not only irritating for you, but downright embarrassing sometimes.
All is not lost though, as there is medication that one should always keep close at hand during these times, espcially, if you have a record of coming down with the allergy during the spring or summer.
SymptomsThe symptoms of hay fever include itchy and runny eyes along with a sore nose which are due to the allergy. Pay particular attention to when you start to experience symptoms considering this may give you some indication as to the specific allergy causing the problem. If you start to develop symptoms in early spring you undoubtedly are reacting to pollen produced by the local trees. Symptoms of grass pollen allergy tend to manifest themselves in late spring and early summer and common weed pollen along with mould spores tend to cause hay fever sufferers problems in late summer.
There has been a significant increase in the number of people suffering from this allergy within the last 25 years but interestingly, experts have not reached a conclusion as to why this is so. Some specialists have hypothesized that it may be the result of the effects of global warming upon the life cycle of our trees and grasses or due to an increase in environmental toxins.
Hay fever and asthma are often found together, and this situation should be monitored carefully by your doctor because allergens can be a trigger for an asthma attack. Allergies can be determined by allergy testing but this can get expensive if a number of substances are tested for. In an allergy test, a small amount of the possible allergen is placed under your skin. If a red bump or swelling occurs then you are allergic to that substance. There has been some research and results with exposing patients to increasing amounts of an allergen to desensitize them to the substance, but this should only be done under the care of your physician because of the risks involved.
TreatmentHayfever treatments very much depend on the severity of the symptoms being experienced. Relatively mild symptoms can be managed by simply staying indoors when the pollen levels are very high ensuring you keep your windows and doors closed. Very good quality shielding sunglasses can be worn should you have to go out and even some cars come pre-fitted with pollen filters. Nasal sprays and eye drops can help alleviate runny eyes and noses however the majority of people tend to now take antihistamine tablets available over the counter from your pharmacy.
Recent research has indicated that the herbal remedy butter bur is shown to be an effective alternative to antihistamines for hay fever sufferers. This is particularly relevant for people who do not wish to experience the drowsiness which antihistamines can cause whilst obtaining a similar benefit. In the most severe hay fever cases oral steroids can be prescribed by your doctor or medical physician. The continued use of oral steroids does however carry risks and greatly increases your risk of contracting osteoporosis later in life.
There are many remedies and treatments available for hay fever and no one needs to suffer therefore, if you are experiencing hay fever symptoms, consult with your doctrr or medical practitionor who will be able to talk through the options with you and af required prescribe the necessary medication.
Home RemediesFor modest cases, hay fever may be dealt with sufficiently using simple home remedies along with allergy-proofing your home. However, even for people with severe cases these methods ought to prove invaluable for controlling the effects of allergy symptoms. There are a number of home remedies which have been found useful in controlling the effects of hay fever. Here are a few of them:
- Gargling warm salt water might help a sore throat
- Herbs like Ginger (can help strengthen the immune system) along with Garlic ( a natural decongestant)
- Using lip balm around your nostrils
- Keep all things in your house clean - especially dusting and washing the floor coverings often
- Keep the doors and windows closed and use air conditioning during hay fever season
Other SolutionsIn addition to medications and home remedies there are still some alternative treatment practices which have produced results. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy has a great success rate and also might be more or less a cure after a long duration of treatment. This method works by incrementally exposing your immune sydtem to the allergen and therefore succesively lessening your reaction to it. Some people have also had success with a number of herbal remedies and supplements, while other people even claim that such things as hypnosis and acupuncture have helped.
ConclusionIt is incredibly diffcult to prevent hay fever as airborne plant pollen, spores, dust and moulds cause it. Nevertheless treatment options exist to make it easier to control and treat your symptoms. Knowledge of precisely what provokes your allergies and getting a treatment plan set up beforehand will help curtail the consequences they have on your life.
If you suffer from this condition, there are some things you can do to help minimize and prevent the symptoms from occurring. There are over the counter medications that can really help control hay fever symptoms and make you more comfortable. Antuhistamines and decongestants can be very helpful, and nasal sprays can reduce any congestion. For eyes that itch and burn, eye drops can be used to relieve these symptoms.