Springtime is here. And the flowers are here, too. No wonder that springtime is high pollen season. Those of us who suffers from hay fever can attest to this. Hay fever or allergic rhinitis in doctor speak is on the rise. According to emedicine statistics, 10 to 30% of adult Americans and over 40% of children suffer from some kind of hay fever. In Sweden, the incidence has doubled over a 12-year period. Other developed countries have reported similar rising trends.
Al though hay fever is quite common, and I’ve had it intermittently over the years, I still learn new things about hay fever constantly. Here are some things that you might not know:
- Hay is not a cause of hay fever. The term hay fever was probably coined as the autumn symptoms coincide with hay making time.
- Hay fever seldom manifests in increased body temperature (fever).
- Hay fever can be caused by many types of airborne allergens, not only pollen. Other airborne allergens are molds, spores, and dust.
- Garden flowers usually do not cause hay fever. The pollens of these plants are usually too big and waxy. The culprits are the pollens from grass, weed and trees which are small, light, almost invisible and easily carried by the wind.
- Hay fever is not only seasonal, it can be all-year round thing. Seasonal hay fever peaks in spring and autumn during high pollen season. I do get it once a year or every two years during spring time. A friend of mine, however, can get it anytime and would present with severe symptoms as early as February when snow is still thick on the ground.
So how does hay fever happen? Below is a description from emedicine of the sequence of events that occur leading to the typical hay fever symptoms:
- In hay fever, the allergens are airborne substances that enter your airways (mouth, nose, throat, and lungs) via your breathing and the linings of your eyes and sometimes ears via direct contact.
- Once these allergens come in contact with your airway, the white blood cells of your immune system produce antibodies to the offending substance. This overreaction to a harmless substance is often called a hypersensitivity reaction.
- The antibody, called immunoglobulin E, or IgE, is stored on special cells called mast cells.
- When the antibody comes in contact with the corresponding antigen, they promote release of chemicals and hormones called “mediators.” Histamine is an example of a mediator.
- It is the effects of these mediators on organs and other cells that cause the symptoms of the allergic reaction, in this case hay fever
Hay fever usually manifests in the following:
- Runny nose with clear, thin discharge
- Constant sneezing
- Stuffy nose
- Sore, scratchy throat
- Red, watery eyes or allergic conjunctivitis
- Itchiness in the nostrils
- Sleeping problems
What are the most common remedies for hay fever?
- Anti-histamines, which are available as oral or liquid medication over-the-counter. Take note that most anti-histamines can make you sleepy and might interfere with driving or operating complex machinery. I personally prefer to take loratadine because it doesn’t make me drowsy.
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays are administered through the nostrils and act as decongestants.
- Decongestants (tablets or liquid) help relieve stuffy nose.
- Eyedrops can help relieve eye symptoms