What is hay fever?
Hay Fever Symptoms , Causes and Diagnosis
Hay fever is a condition that arises when you have an allergy to pollen coming from plants, flowers, and trees. It is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. Hay fever is a common condition experienced by almost 40% of children and 10-30% of adults in the UK.
The condition starts when you get exposed to pollen. Your immune system reacts to it and causes cold-like symptoms. Your mouth, eyes, and nose also release different chemicals that trigger the symptoms and allergic reactions.
Hay fever cases rise significantly during summer and spring since these seasons are generally characterized by hot, windy, and dry days. Pollen counts are often at its peak during these two seasons as well. Hay fever sufferers may contract the condition any time of the year as long as they get too much exposure to pollen, but their symptoms often worsen during spring and summer days.
The four main symptoms of hay fever include:
These four are often accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Pain or pressure at the sinus area
- Blocked nose
- Runny nose
- Itchiness of the nose, skin, ears, throat, and roof of the mouth
- Reddish and itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Loss of smell
- Post-nasal drip, wherein mucus runs down the back of your throat
- Allergic shiners, a symptom where the skin appears purplish and swollen under the eyes
- Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing
Asthma sufferers who catch hay fever may feel their asthma symptoms worsen. They can feel more intense tightness in their chest, audible wheezes as they breathe, and extreme shortness of breath.
Hay fever is diagnosed by a physician by asking you about the symptoms you experience, if they occur in a seasonal pattern, any family histories, and other similar questions. All of these can be done over an online video consultation.
Tests are not usually done to diagnose hay fever. But if your symptoms appear a bit different from usual, your doctor may consider letting you go through the following diagnostics:
- Blood tests
- Skin prick allergy test
See your doctor if you experience the following:
- Symptoms progressed to a severe form
- Over-the-counter medications cannot alleviate your symptoms
- You experienced side effects of over-the-counter medications
- Symptoms persist year-round
- Hay fever makes your asthma symptoms worse or severe
Hay fever stems from a pollen allergy. Exposure to the pollen alerts the immune system, telling your body that it is a harmful threat. Your body then releases antibodies to fight off this perceived threat. Antibodies then go to your mouth, nose, eyes, and throat and trigger them to release histamine (an inflammatory biochemical), causing the symptoms of allergy.
Here are the types of pollens where people are typically allergic to, including the months when these pollens are abundant in the air:
- May to July – Grass pollen
- February to June – Tree pollen
- September to December – Weed pollen
The most common pollen type where people get allergic to is the grass pollen.
Some people suffering from hay fever get year-round symptoms. If this happens, perhaps they are allergic to some other substance such as pet hair, dust mites, or mould spores. A physician can help them pinpoint the right allergen causing their year-round symptoms.