What Is Hay Fever, Really?

What Is Hay Fever, Really?

October 28, 2013
by Michael Barber
What Is Hay Fever, Really?

Have you been diagnosed with hay fever? If so, you may have some questions like: what causes hay fever and what times of the year are symptoms most prominent? If you think you may have hay fever, you might be wondering how to tell. 

Defining Hay Fever

According to WebMD, hay fever is "an immune disorder characterized by an allergic response to pollen grains and other substances." Many allergists also call hay fever, allergic rhinitis.

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Types of Hay Fever

Doctors agree there are two types of true hay fever. One occurs when plants pollinate in the spring and the other is "perennial" or year round. For example, if you have been diagnosed with spring hay fever, tree and flower pollination will probably affect your allergy which is also known as spring hay fever. These types of sufferers may also be affected when fall allergens are present like fungus spores.

Those diagnosed with perennial or year-round hay fever are allergic to spring and fall allergies but others as well. These include indoor allergens such as dust mites or animal dander. Dust mites can be found throughout the home, especially when we turn on our heat for the first time during cold months which aids in kicking up dust mites. These nasty allergens can be found in pillows, draperies, upholstery and carpeting. Mold in damp and windy months is another cause of perennial allergy symptoms.

Because hay fever can be debilitating, it's best to visit an allergist - or at least an urgent care center - to get your symptoms diagnosed and treated.

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What Is the Cause of Hay Fever?

Because hay fever is an immune disorder, those who suffer from it are affected when allergens are inhaled. Once inhaled, the body begins to react, causing histamines and leukotrienes to inflame and battle the allergens.

Symptoms include itchy eyes, blocked or runny sinuses, sneezing and inflamed nasal passages. With hay fever, these symptoms, while horrid, are present to expel allergens from your body. Suffers may also experience dark circles under the eyes, known as "allergic shiners" and for perennial hay fever sufferers, dark circles may be present year round.

Because the body tries to expel allergens, often the sinuses become blocked causing sinusitis which may require antibiotics. Nasal polyps may also occur and these are non-cancerous growths that can lead to nose bleeds, sneezing, and hay fever attacks.

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Am I Susceptible to Hay Fever?

Many allergists agree that hay fever is an inherited trait says WebMD. If your parents or siblings have hay fever, you are more likely to develop this condition. People diagnosed with allergic asthma or allergic rhinitis are also more prone to develop hay fever. Even people diagnosed with eczema have a higher chance of developing hay fever.

When Should I Seek Help?

If you fear you may be suffering from hay fever, you can go to a walk-in clinic and speak with a family doctor. They are best equipped to reach a proper diagnosis and then recommend an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) or ENT to help you control symptoms. Both prescribed medications including nasal sprays, drops, and OTC medications may be recommended. Different medications may be prescribed to find one that works best for your symptoms.

Doctors will also pay close attention to your sinuses and sinus damage from hay fever. These include removing polyps which can lead to chronic sinusitis, administering allergy shots, specific allergy testing, and looking for signs of a deviated septum. When polyps become inflamed causing severe headaches, they may be surgically removed to lessen hay fever symptoms. A deviated septum can also be repaired to fight hay fever symptoms.

Because hay fever is not like other fall or spring allergies, if you think you have hay fever, it's best to have it properly diagnosed by a physician that can set a plan for treatment.