Contrary to it's name, hay fever isn't caused by hay nor does it result in a fever. So, what is it? Put simply, hay fever is an allergic reaction that can leave you sidelined during allergy season or even all year long because of what's in your own home.
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is also referred to as allergic rhinitis. Rhinitis occurs when the mucous membranes of the nose become inflamed by either an infection or an allergic reaction, as is the case with hay fever. Because of the area of inflammation, hay fever causes symptoms similar to that of the common cold. If you're experiencing hay fever, you may have one or more of the following: nasal congestion, cough, poor sense of smell, runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and sinus pain or pressure. You may also develop what are commonly referred to as "allergic shiners," which is when the skin beneath the eyes becomes swollen with a bluish tint, just like if you sustained any injury.
A study published November 25 in the medical journal Cephalagia also showed a possible link between hay fever and increased migraines. The study found individuals who experienced allergies and hay fever were 33 percent more likely to have frequent migraines, based on a survey of 6,000 reported migraine sufferers in 2008.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the cause of hay fever can be one or a combination of several common allergens. The allergens most known to cause hay fever include dander from pets like cats and dogs, mold spores, dust mites, grasses or pollen from plants. Exposure to an allergen triggers the release of histamine into your blood, which causes the uncomfortable symptoms. You'll know you have hay fever if the symptoms begin right after contact with an allergen and are relieved when exposure to said allergen ends. If you have a fever, aches or yellow discharge from your nose, you have probably have an infection instead of hay fever.
Hay fever most usually begins during childhood, but can also affect young adults. The symptoms generally lessen over time. If you're experiencing any of the above symptoms and haven't been diagnosed with any allergies, it may be worth getting checked if it becomes a recurring problem. Pay attention to the onset, severity and duration of your symptoms and see an allergy specialist.
Beating Hay Fever Naturally
While prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, nasal sprays (corticosteroids) and eye drops are the most common remedies for hay fever symptoms, there are other methods. One homeopathic method is to ingest a small amount of the allergen regularly to build tolerance and prevent symptoms. The herbal supplements most commonly recommended for hay fever are extracts of butterbur, eyebright, ambrosia and euphorbia. These herbs can help reduce allergy symptoms. Acupuncture has also been suggested as an alternative therapy, but insufficient evidence exists at this time to back up its effectiveness in the treatment and prevention of hay fever.
Before beginning any natural treatment, it's important to speak with your doctor, especially if you're currently being treated for allergies, asthma or other medical condition or are pregnant or nursing. Certain herbal extracts and supplements can interfere with medications.
Tips for Prevention
If your hay fever symptoms become too severe, drastic measures may need to be taken, such as removing your pets from your home or remaining indoors during peak pollen time or windy weather. However, there are steps you can take to help control your hay fever and prevent symptoms:
Make sure your asthma is well controlled to prevent complications.
Install an air filter for removing allergens in your home.
Wear protective gear, such as a face mask, when working with common allergens on the job or at home.
Keep windows and doors shut when pollen levels are high.
Make sure your home is well sealed.
Give your pets a bath at least once a week.
Keep all eating surfaces clean and take out the trash regularly.
Throw out food that becomes moldy immediately.
Vacuum and dust regularly.
Pay attention to your symptoms and what methods work and don't work to report to your doctor at your annual exam.
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