Disease: Allergic rhinitis

Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like signs and symptoms, such as a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn't caused by a virus. Hay fever is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as pollen, dust mites or pet dander.

Hay fever can make you miserable and affect your performance at work or school and interfere with leisure activities. But you don't have to put up with annoying symptoms. Learning how to avoid triggers and finding the right treatment can make a big difference.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Hay fever signs and symptoms usually start immediately after you're exposed to a specific allergy-causing substance (allergen) and can include:

  • Runny nose and nasal congestion
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
  • Sinus pressure and facial pain
  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste

Time of year can be a factor

Your hay fever symptoms may start or worsen at a particular time of year, triggered by tree pollen, grasses or weeds, which all bloom at different times. If you're sensitive to indoor allergens, such as dust mites, cockroaches, mold or pet dander, you may have year-round symptoms. Many people have allergy symptoms all year long, but their symptoms get worse during certain times of the year.

The effects of age
Although hay fever can begin at any age, you're most likely to develop it during childhood or early adulthood. It's common for the severity of hay fever reactions to change over the years. For most people, hay fever symptoms tend to diminish slowly, often over decades.

Is it hay fever? Or is it a cold?

Signs and symptoms can be different. Here's how to tell which one's causing your symptoms:

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • You think you may have hay fever
  • Your symptoms are ongoing and bothersome
  • Allergy medications aren't working for you
  • Allergy medications work, but side effects are a problem
  • You have another condition that can worsen hay fever symptoms, such as nasal polyps, asthma or frequent sinus infections

Many people — especially children — get used to hay fever symptoms. But getting the right treatment can reduce irritating symptoms. In some cases, treatment may help prevent more-serious allergic conditions, such as asthma or eczema.

You may want to see an allergy specialist (allergist) if:

  • Your symptoms are severe
  • Hay fever is a year-round nuisance
  • Allergy medications aren't controlling your symptoms
  • Your allergy medications are causing troublesome side effects
  • You want to find out whether allergy shots (immunotherapy) might be an option for you

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

During a process called sensitization, your immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless airborne substance as something harmful. Your immune system then starts producing antibodies to this harmless substance. The next time you come in contact with the substance, these antibodies recognize it and signal your immune system to release chemicals, such as histamine, into your bloodstream. These immune system chemicals cause a reaction that leads to the irritating signs and symptoms of hay fever.

Seasonal hay fever triggers include:

  • Tree pollen, common in the spring
  • Grass pollen, common in the late spring and summer
  • Ragweed pollen, common in the fall
  • Spores from fungi and molds, which can be worse during warm-weather months

Year-round hay fever triggers include:

  • Dust mites or cockroaches
  • Dander (dried skin flakes and saliva) from pets, such as cats, dogs or birds
  • Spores from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds

Hay fever doesn't mean you're allergic to hay. Despite its name, hay fever is almost never triggered by hay, and it doesn't cause a fever.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Your doctor will ask detailed questions about your personal and family medical history, your signs and symptoms, and your usual way of treating them. Your doctor will also perform a physical examination to look for additional clues about the causes of your signs and symptoms. He or she may also recommend one or both of the following tests:

  • Skin prick test. During skin testing, small amounts of material that can trigger allergies are pricked into the skin of your arm or upper back and you're observed for signs of an allergic reaction. If you're allergic, you develop a raised bump (hive) at the test location on your skin. Allergy specialists usually are best equipped to perform allergy skin tests.
  • Allergy blood test. A blood test, sometimes called the radioallergosorbent test (RAST), can measure your immune system's response to a specific allergen. The test measures the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in your bloodstream, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. A blood sample is sent to a medical laboratory, where it can be tested for evidence of sensitivity to possible allergens.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

Problems that may be associated with hay fever include:

  • Reduced quality of life. Hay fever can interfere with your enjoyment of activities and cause you to be less productive. For many people, hay fever symptoms lead to absences from work or school.
  • Poor sleep. Hay fever symptoms can keep you awake or make it hard to stay asleep.
  • Worsening asthma. If you have asthma, hay fever can worsen signs and symptoms, such as coughing and wheezing.
  • Sinusitis. Prolonged sinus congestion due to hay fever may increase your susceptibility to sinusitis — an infection or inflammation of the membrane that lines the sinuses.
  • Ear infection. In children, hay fever often is a factor in middle ear infection (otitis media).

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

There's no proven way to avoid getting hay fever in the first place. Doctors think reducing a child's exposure to allergy-causing substances, such as dust mites and animal dander, may help delay or prevent hay fever — but the evidence isn't clear yet.

If you have hay fever, the best thing you can do is to take steps to lessen your exposure to the allergens that cause your symptoms. Take allergy medications before you're exposed to allergens, as directed by your doctor.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

While there isn't much evidence about how well they work, a number of people try alternative treatments for hay fever. These include:

  • Herbal remedies and supplements. Extracts of the shrub butterbur may help prevent seasonal allergy symptoms. If you do try butterbur, be sure to use a product that's labeled "PA-free," which indicates it's had potentially toxic substances removed. There's some limited evidence that spirulina and Tinospora cordifolia also may be effective. Though their benefits are unclear, other herbal remedies for seasonal allergies include capsicum, honey, vitamin C and fish oil.
  • Alternative therapies. Some people claim that therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy may help with seasonal allergy symptoms. However, there's no clear evidence showing that these treatments work. Limited research suggests the use of intranasal phototherapy may be helpful in reducing nasal symptoms. However, the long-term effects of this recent therapy are unknown.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

It's not possible to completely avoid allergens, but you can reduce your symptoms by taking some steps to limit your exposure to them. It helps to know exactly what you're allergic to so that you can avoid your specific triggers.

Pollen or molds

  • Close doors and windows during pollen season.
  • Don't hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
  • Use air conditioning in your house and car.
  • Use an allergy-grade filter in the ventilation system.
  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days.
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce indoor humidity.
  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
  • Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves, which stirs up pollen and molds.
  • Wear a dust mask when doing outdoor activities such as gardening.

Dust mites

  • Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, box springs and pillows.
  • Wash sheets and blankets in water heated to at least 130 F (54 C).
  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to reduce indoor humidity.
  • Vacuum carpets weekly with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a small-particle or HEPA filter.
  • Consider removing carpeting, especially where you sleep, if you're highly sensitive to dust mites.

Cockroaches

  • Block cracks and crevices where roaches can enter.
  • Fix leaky faucets and pipes.
  • Wash dishes and empty garbage daily.
  • Sweep food crumbs from counters and floors.
  • Store food, including pet food, in sealed containers.
  • Consider professional pest extermination.

Pet dander

  • Remove pets from the house, if possible.
  • Bathe your pets on a weekly basis, if possible. Using wipes designed to reduce dander also may help.
  • Keep your pets out of the bedroom.

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

The following factors may increase your risk of developing hay fever:

  • Having other allergies or asthma
  • Having a blood relative (such as a parent or sibling) with allergies or asthma
  • Living or working in an environment that constantly exposes you to allergens — such as animal dander

Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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