Help for Hay Fever?
When the seasons change, many people can be seen with watery eyes, pockets full of handkerchiefs, and taking allergy pills several times a day. Allergies are often caused by the thick yellow pollen that covers cars and streets all over the world, but it also may be caused by less visible particles in grass and dust. Allergies can become a serious problem when untreated, and the World Allergy Organization (WAO) estimates between 10-40% of the global population suffer from some type of allergy. If you or someone you care about suffers from hay fever, read on for some helpful tips.
What is hay fever?
First of all, hay fever is not caused by hay and doesn’t usually come with a fever. It is actually, a type of condition caused by pollen or dust in which the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose are itchy and inflamed, causing a runny nose, chronic sneezing, watery, red eyes, and even skin irritation. Your doctor or Ear-Nose-Throat physician most likely would call it seasonal (or perineal) allergic rhinitis, which simply means inflammation of the nasal mucous membranes.
Allergies are often self-diagnosed, however, most commonly ear-nose-throat or allergy specialists make the diagnosis through allergy testing on the skin or in the nose. For the most accurate diagnosis, it is important to get tested before the allergy season starts.
The cause of this condition can be, for example, house dust mites, but also the pollen of plants, such as grass, trees, and weeds as well as outdoor molds and some types of pollution. Beyond these outside influences, there are several personal influences including:
- Asthma or other allergies (food)
- Parent(s) or siblings with allergies (hereditary)
- A home, school or workplace where you’re exposed to allergens (allergy triggers) on a regular basis
- A birth mother who smoked before your first birthday
Also records show a larger number of allergy sufferers who live in metropolitan areas. And although people usually get allergies before the age of 21, allergy symptoms can appear at any age – at birth, at 12, 30 or even 75.
The most common symptoms are:
- Watery, irritated, red, itchy eyes
- Runny and/or congested nose
- Sore or itchy throat and/or roof of the mouth
- Skin rash or irritation
Although the most common treatments include over-the-counter and prescription tablets, nasal sprays, and eye drop, in the form of anti-histamines or cortisone. There are many short-term measures that anyone can do on their own such as:
- Regular hand washing
- Rinsing out nasal passages and mouth
- Night-time hair washing
- Storing clothing articles (especially jackets and shoes) outside
- Wash bedding in hot water
- Keeping windows and doors closed
- Wearing sunglasses
The good news is that allergic rhinitis is generally not life-threatening, but can be annoying and inconvenient. However, there are some people who have an anaphylactic shock associated with an allergic reaction. This is a severe reaction and can cause the smooth muscles in the throat to close and obstruct the airwaves. These symptoms should not be ignored and medical attention should be given immediately. If you think you may suffer from allergies, please see your medical provider for advice.