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  Hay fever

Hay Fever is the allergic irritation of the nose and sinus passages, also known as nasal allergies, allergic rhinitis and pollinosis.
Hay Fever is named because the symptoms are most prevalent during ‘hay season.’

Hay fever
Hay fever


Symptoms:

People can experience mild to sever symptoms. Common symptoms experienced with Hay Fever are:


Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
Watering eyes
Sneezing
Coughing
Wheezing
Headache
Itching nose, mouth, eyes, throat, skin, or any area
Runny nose (and occasionally nosebleeds)
Sore throat
Fever
Cross-reactivity allergy to some fruits
Conjunctivitis

Causes

An allergy is caused by a sensitive immune system which responds incorrectly to substances that are normally not harmful. A typical immune system protects the body against dangerous substances like viruses and bacteria. An allergy occurs when the immune system responds to allergens that are harmless to most people. In the case of Hay Fever, the allergen is pollen.

Minute matter in polluted air such as animal dander (tiny pieces of dried skin), dust and mold can also trigger hay fever. Chemicals such as chlorine and detergents, normally innocuous can increase the Hay Fever response.

There are many species of pollen. Mostly it is pollen from plants that are pollinated via wind that cause hay fever. Not everyone who suffers from hay fever, is susceptible to the same specie of pollen. Pollens of insect pollinated plants such as flowers are two large to trigger hay fever.

Pollens from the following plants are the common hay fever triggers:

Trees: birch, alder, hazel, hornbeam, horse chestnut, willow, poplar, lime and olive.
Grasses: rye and timothy hay
Weeds: ragweed, plantain, nettle, mugwort, fat hen and sorrel or dock.

In the United States and countries with cold climates the birch tree is responsible for most tree pollen allergies – fifteen to twenty percent of hay fever patients are allergic to birch. In the Mediterranean region olive pollen is the primary cause of hay fever. Ninety five percent of hay fever patients are allergic to grass pollen.

The percentage of pollen in the air also determines whether hay fever develops in susceptible individuals. Rainy days wash most pollen into the ground, while a windy day can increase the pollen count tremendously.

The season in which hay fever occurs depends on the pollen which causes the allergic reaction. Most pollen has a specific season of the year. Hay fever patients who have experienced their symptoms for years are able to determine which time of year will affect them the most. This will help with treatment, as medication can be started right before their allergy season.

When pollen is inhaled by a person with Hay Fever an antibody is produced by the body. The antibody clings to cells that have histamines. The histamines are released into the blood stream causing swelling, itching and increased mucus production. Symptoms vary between sufferers, the most sensitive can experience rashes or hives. Eczema and asthma are also associated with hay fever.

Diagnosis:

Hay fever is diagnosed by review the history of symptoms the individual experiences. The history would include time of day or season, exposure to pets and dietary changes.

A specific test called a skin test is the most common method for allergy testing. For some individuals a RAST blood test may determine specific allergies.

Hay Fever patients may find that they are allergic to a variety of things – known as cross-reactivity. This occurs because the proteins in some foods are similar to pollen proteins.

Prevention

To decrease reaction, avoiding esposure to pollen is recommended. This may seem difficult – but here are a few tips:

Stay indoors in the morning and evening – the time when outdoor pollen levels peak Use the air conditioner, keeping windows closed, if possible Do not use a clothes line to dry clothes Wear a face mask to filter out pollen when outdoors Avoid exposure to irritants such as paint, road tar and air pollution Avoid mowing the lawn and yard work

Medication

Medication for hay fever depends on the symptoms. Asthma and eczema require more serious treatment and monitoring by a doctor.

Strong, fast acting anti-histamines are used after a hay fever episode or attack – usually prescribed by a doctor Short acting anti histamines are available at the pharmacy or drug store can relieve mild symptoms but may make patients drowsy. Before giving allergy medication to a child, please consult a pediatrician Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids are safe a effective

Sometimes a doctor may recommend hypo-sensitization immunotherapy. This is when an allergy cannot be avoided and is extremely dangerous such as a bee sting. This is usually a last resort therapy. It involves regular injections of minute amounts of the allergen, which is increased over time. This helps the body to normalize the allergen.

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