Have you been suffering with sniffles, sneezing and coughing this season? You may have hay fever, allergy to ragweed and its many relatives (chamomile). Currently, the pollen count is high in my area.
Hay Fever is actually an umbrella term for a group of nasal conditions. Rhinitis (AKA Hay Fever) receives the name because the symptoms would occur during the time hay was harvested and the pollen was in the air. It is possible to be allergic to hay. However, people are usually allergic to trees, grasses and ragweed. Hay fever is categorized as two types – allergic rhinitis and non-allergic rhinitis.
Depending on how long symptoms stick around, seasonal usually occurs spring through fall because of outdoor pollen. While perennial is all year long due to indoor irritants such as pet dander or dust mites. An itching or tingling feeling in the mouth and throat is suspicious of an allergy.
The National Allergy BureauTM (NAB) will give an accurate and reliable report of pollen and mold count. There are about 80 stations across the US, 2 counting stations in Canada and 2 counting stations in Argentina.
On days that are hot, dry and windy more pollen is likely to be flying through the air. Rainy days that are cool and damp will help wash pollen to the ground.
- Spring – pollinating trees
- Summer – pollinating grasses
- Fall – pollinating weeds
Pollen is a fine powder that plants release to reproduce (pollination). You may have seen the substance on the legs of bumble bees. Proteins in the pollen can cause our allergic symptoms.
It is best to start allergy medications before tree pollen hits the air in spring. Good prevention is starting early before coming into contact with spring allergens.
Oversensitivity to ragweed is more common in fall. Also you could experience symptoms due to mold spores from the leaves falling.
Hay Fever symptoms are similar to some COVID-19 (please refer to CDC & WHO websites for current updates) symptoms. Don’t confuse allergies with coronavirus. An antihistamine will improve hay fever but do nothing for COVID-19. If your symptoms are different from other years consult your doctor.
Nasal: congestion, loss of smell (anosmia COVID-19) redness, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing or stuffy nose.
Eyes: itchiness, puffy eyes, redness or watery. Due to congestion with the veins those dark circles (AKA allergic shiners) develop.
Respiratory: breathing through the mouth or wheezing, coughing, itching, phlegm or throat irritation.
Getting diagnosed includes your medial history, examining the nasal passages and maybe a skin test to determine the allergy.
You are more prone to allergic rhinitis if you have a family history to allergies. Having asthma or eczema may increase your risk.
Allergies are a hypersensitivity of our body to an allergen. The immune system has mistaken a harmless substance as an allergen. In a defense mold, now the body releases histamine and other chemicals. The histamine brings on symptoms.
Seasonal hay fever is caused by pollen carried through the air at certain times of the year and this will change with different areas of the world.
In addition, other triggers that may also irritate are smoke and strong odors or changing of the temperature and humidity in the air. This occurs because allergic rhinitis causes inflammation in nasal lining that increases sensitivity to inhalants.
Due to allergic rhinitis most people are prone to allergic conjunctivitis. This can also make asthma symptoms worse for those suffering from both conditions.
Allergies cannot be cured but there is treatment using antihistamines, bronchial dilators and corticosteroids.
About one out of three people having rhinitis symptoms will not have allergies.
Non-allergic rhinitis typically occurs in adults with year round symptoms, especially runny nose and nasal congestion. This differs from allergic rhinitis for the fact that there is no involvement with the immune system.
Non-Allergic Rhinitis Possible Causes
- Some infections
- Changes with weather or temperature
- Nose inflammation or irritation not due to allergy
- Health conditions causing nasal symptoms
These conditions may be connected depending on your type of allergic rhinitis:
- Acute sinusitis
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Eustachian tube dysfunction (poor ventilation in ears)
- Laryngitis (inflammation in voice box)
- Eosinophil esophagitis
- Difficulty sleeping
Different Specialist for Allergies
This condition has overlapping symptoms of different areas. You may be referred another specialist. Seeing a doctor who treats allergies may be helpful. If there is a problem involving the respiratory system a Pulmonologist may be seen. ENT (Otolaryngologist) could be seen if the ear, nose and throat are involved.
Your allergist will have special training and experience in diagnosing the allergens of your triggers. This may determine if your symptoms are non-allergic.
A complete health history will be taken along with an allergy test. This may consist of a skin path test applying a selection of allergens under the skin and watching for a reaction.
Your allergist may prescribe medication to decrease symptoms. These could be nasal corticosteroid sprays, antihistamine pills, nasal antihistamine sprays and decongestant pills.
Treatment choices for non-allergic rhinitis could be nasal corticosteroids, nasal antihistamines and nasal saline formulations. If the main problem is nasal congestion, decongestant pills or sprays may be used.
*Nasal decongestant sprays, however, should not be continued for more than four days unless combined with a nasal corticosteroid spray.
An immunologist may work with planning a way for you to avoid allergens which trigger your symptoms.
Rhinitis may be followed by sinusitis (an infection or inflammation of the sinuses). Sinusitis may cause facial pressure, drainage of greenish/yellow discharge. An ENT or sinus specialist may help with treatment.
Children may also be affected with same symptoms. Consult the pediatrician concerning treatment, if your child suffers from chronic cold-like symptoms that last for weeks and they come back the same time of year.
Antihistamines can reduce symptoms:
Fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy) used to treat hay fever symptoms. Can be used in treating chronic skin hives (urticarial) and itching. This may need a prescription. Talk to your doctor if pregnant and avoid alcohol, causes interactions.
Levocetirizine (Xyzal) treats hay fever and hives. A prescription may be needed. No risk with pregnancy. Alcohol consumption may not be safe.
Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) decongestant to help with the nasal congestion, swelling and runny nose. A prescription may be needed. Talk to your doctor if pregnant. This medication may interact with alcohol.
Some medication may cause drowsiness and it is important to keep the side effects in mind.
Eye decongestant and allergy eye drops will help relieve the redness and irritation.
Allergy shots may be considered for long lasting relief. Recently approved in US are allergy tablets called Sublingual (under tongue) immunotherapy (SLIT) and these are taken daily.
Other Allergy Suggestions:
- Stay hydrated
- Get your Vitamin C
- Get your rest
- Using a neti pot may reduce the mucus and help with congestion and runny nose
- Steam can help relieve sinus pressure and remove some mucous
- Taking a hot shower opens nasal passages and washes away pollen you might have brought in on hair and skin.
- Don’t forget to launder clothes when coming indoors, this removes pollen collected
- You may want to invest in Hepa-filters for your home
- cold compress for puffy eyes
Maybe you have seen the eye mask that you can throw in freezer. They are good for swelling and puffiness from sinus pressure. (Or ice roller is great!)
Regularly blowing the nose can make it chapped and sensitive. Don’t forget to treat this with ointment or lotion to bring back moisture.
Taking care of the allergy will improve your skin.
Do you suffer from allergies? What type?
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https://www.healthline.com/health/allergic-rhinitis accessed 08/22/2020
https://www.asthmaandallergycenter.com/article/beware-ragweed-relatives/ accessed 08/23/2020