Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction caused by hay or grass pollen. From the months of March to May, this allergic reaction is commonly caused by other pollens like tree pollens but from May until July, hay fever due to grass pollen becomes very common. This condition is very common and usually develops during the adolescence years. The symptoms recur for a particular season every year for a number of years. Fortunately, the symptoms would eventually stop.
Symptoms of Hay Fever
The symptoms are triggered by how a person’s immune system would react to the pollens. Those who are affected will have the cells in the lining of their nose and eyes discharge histamine and other associated chemical at the very moment pollen comes in contact with them. This encounter causes rhinitis or the immediate inflammation of the nose, and conjunctivitis, the inflammation of the eyes.
- Aside from these two symptoms, a person with hay fever may also experience the more common symptoms such as runny nose, blocked nose, itchy red eyes and nose, and sneezing.
- It should be taken into account that in some patients, only the nose symptoms will be present whereas for some, it would be eye symptoms.
- Patients may also experience pain in their faces, uncontrollable sweating, loss of their sense of smell, and headaches.
- Some patients can experience asthma symptoms like breathlessness and wheezing. The symptoms would get worse is the patient already has asthma but some patients will only have the asthma symptoms when they have hay fever.
Prevention of Hay Fever
Hay fever can be avoided, fortunately. A person can do this by keeping away from pollen and the symptoms will become less severe once a person’s exposure to them is decreased. Usually, there are broadcasts in radio, TV, weather forecast in newspapers and the internet about the pollen count and it helps a lot to know this if you want to keep hay fever away.
But if exposure to pollen is unavoidable:
- Staying indoors should be kept in mind. Also, remember to keep the doors and the windows closed.
- Avoid going to grassy areas or camping. Also refrain from cutting grass in your own home.
- Take a shower and make sure that you shampoo your hair well especially when you have gone outdoors.
- Do not forget to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes while you are out.
- If possible, buy pollen filters for your car. Also remember to keep the windows in your car closed.
Treatment for Hay Fever
- Common medication
- Anti-histamine nose sprays – this can alleviate sneezing, itching and watering within fifteen minutes of application but is not good for congestion. This kind of drug works by impeding the function of histamine, a chemical which regulates reactions associated to allergies. The spray can be used when the person has mild symptoms and can be taken on a regular basis to help keep the symptoms away.
- Anti-histamine tablets/ liquid medicine – anti-histamines can be taken orally as a tablet or a liquid medicine. These drugs can ease the symptoms but cannot relieve nasal congestion or blocked nose. It can take effect in as little as one hour and can be taken if the person has mild or chronic symptoms. Several brands are available can be purchased as over-the-counter medicine or prescription medication. The brand chlorphenamine can ease the symptoms but it can also make some patients feel drowsy. The newer anti-histamine drugs can make the patients feel less drowsy and is often prescribed by pharmacists.
- Steroid nose sprays – this works by relieving the patient of the nose symptoms which would include congestion, itching, sneezing, and watering. The steroid nose spray can also reduce the inflammation of the nose and ease some of the eye symptoms as well. It may take a few days before the spray could take effect and in some people, it may take as long as three weeks or longer. The good news is that this remedy causes almost no side effects.
This treatment is the most successful remedy especially when the symptoms are severe. The steroid nose spray can be used daily while taking anti-histamines especially if the symptoms are chronic and severe. But once the symptoms are gone, the dose of the steroid spray can be reduced just to keep the symptoms away. The steroid spray can be bought or prescribed by a pharmacist.
- Alternative treatment
- Eye drops – this can be supplementary to other drugs or treatments. Anti-histamine eye drops usually work fast and can be used regularly to relieve eye inflammation. Another type of eye drop is the mast cell stabilizers which work by preventing histamine from being releases from mast cells. Mast cell stabilizers should be used regularly.
- Nose sprays – the following nose sprays are less frequently used because they are only recommended if the other treatments have failed. These can be taken as supplementary drugs to other treatments especially if the symptoms are severe.
- Sodium cromoglicate nose spray – the effect of this type of nose spray can take a while to kick in and it should be taken four to five times a day, regularly as well like steroid sprays. This works by preventing histamine from being released from mast cells.
- Ipratropium bromide nose spray – this alleviates watery discharge and has little or no effect on congestion or sneezing.
- Decongestant nose sprays– this type of spray is not advised to be taken longer than a few days. This can immediately ease congestion but after regular and non-stop use for five to seven days, severe nose congestion will occur.
- Treating severe symptoms
- It is very rare that a patient would be given steroid tablets for a short course of time but this is still safe and can be prescribed especially to students who have severe symptoms and yet they have to sit an exam. Steroids work by reducing the inflammation of the nose or the eyes and should be taken for long periods of time because I may cause grave side-effects.
- Desensitization or immunotherapy – this treatment is not often used but only in cases where the symptoms cannot be alleviated by other drugs and treatments. This is done by using a number of injections for the purpose of desensitizing the patient’s immune system. Another way of doing this, although still being further developed, is by placing an allergen under the patient’s tongue.
- Hay fever and asthma – if a person will develop symptoms for asthma while having hay fever as well, then your doctor may prescribe you with an inhaler. If the patient already has asthma, then it would only become worse during the season for hay fever. As a precaution and treatment, the patient is advised to take in increased doses of their usual inhalers.