Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to environmental triggers that can cause cold-like symptoms. Symptoms often include a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. Allergens such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander may all contribute to an episode of hay fever. Hay fever is a common condition that can occur at any age, but is most likely to develop during childhood or early adulthood.
Causes of Hay Fever
Allergic reactions are triggered by exposure to certain substances known as allergens. Allergens may include:
- Dust mites
- Animal dander
- Mold or Fungal spores
Allergic reactions can also be caused by changes in the weather or seasons, when different plant pollens may be in abundance.
Symptoms of Hay Fever
Symptoms of hay fever usually manifest after exposure to an allergen. Symptoms may include:
- Runny or itchy nose
- Watery eyes
- Sinus congestion
- Sore throat
Symptoms of hay fever are often confused with those of a common cold. However, hay fever symptoms may be present for weeks if seasonal allergens remain in the air, while the symptoms of a cold usually clear up within 7 to 10 days.
Diagnosis of Hay Fever
Hay fever is diagnosed through a physical examination and a review of symptoms. Allergy testing, including blood tests and skin prick tests, may be performed to identify the specific allergens that are causing a reaction and to determine appropriate treatment.
Treatment of Hay Fever
The most effective treatment for hay fever is to avoid the allergens, however this is not always possible. There are medications available that can provide relief from the symptoms of hay fever. These medications include:
- Nasal or oral corticosteroids
- Prescription or over-the-counter nasal sprays
Rinsing the nasal passages with a sterile saline solution can also help to relieve nasal congestion. Allergy shots or immunotherapy may also be an effective form of treatment for hay fever. Over a period of time, regular injections containing tiny amounts of allergens, are administered to the patient. Immunotherapy focuses on getting the body used to the allergens that cause the hay fever symptoms, ultimately decreasing the need for medications.