Oct 8, 2021
Everything You Need to Know About Hay Fever
4 minute read
If you've ever spent the entire spring sneezing and blowing your nose, you're probably the victim of allergic rhinitis – better known as hay fever.
Hay fever often strikes in the spring when pollen production is at its yearly high, sending allergy sufferers into a tailspin of runny noses, sore throats, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Even those who deal with asthma or use nasal sprays regularly can still come across hay fever.
In this post, we'll be covering everything you need to know about allergic rhinitis – its causes, symptoms, treatments, and more.
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to airborne allergens that float around in your home and outside. These allergens include pollen, dust mites, mold spores, and pet dander. For people who suffer from hay fever, particles can cause big problems that they otherwise wouldn't.
If you get hay fever symptoms, it's a sign that your immune system is overreacting to exposure to allergens. When you breathe the allergens in, your body reacts by producing chemicals like histamines, which kick an inflammatory response into gear and leave you feeling lousy.
In the medical world, hay fever is typically referred to as allergic rhinitis. However, these two terms are interchangeable – they both mean the same thing.
What Are the Symptoms of Hay Fever?
The symptoms of hay fever often mimic what you'd experience if you had a cold. You might suffer from a runny nose, sneeze frequently, have a sore throat, start coughing, or notice an increase in nasal congestion. These common allergy symptoms often arise when pollen counts are at their highest.
Hay fever symptoms typically pop up right after you've been exposed to allergens. That means that if you're allergic to tree pollen, you'll most likely start sneezing and needing tissues as soon as you get outdoors on a breezy day.
Is It Hay Fever...or a Cold?
Since hay fever and the common cold have very similar symptoms, it can be tough to tell the difference between them. However, there are a few telltale signs that you can look for to determine whether you're sick or just dealing with hay fever:
Colds cause a runny nose with thick mucus that might be discolored. Allergies will make your nose run, but the discharge is typically clear and thin. While it might sound gross, examining your snot is one way to possibly figure out what you're dealing with!
If you have a cold, it's possible that you'll suffer from a low-grade fever as well. If you do have a temperature, it's highly unlikely that your allergies cause it.
Hay fever typically triggers symptoms that last throughout a specific season. Aside from year-round hay fever (perennial allergic rhinitis), hay fever is normally tied to a certain part of the year, and your symptoms will most likely linger until airborne allergen levels decrease. Colds, on the other hand, typically only last for a few days.
Diagnosing Hay Fever
Figuring out the cause of your hay fever symptoms is the first step on the path to prevention and long-term treatment. With the help of medications like antihistamines and treatment methods like immunotherapy, you can find lasting relief – but first, you'll need to know what you're allergic to!
When you're struggling to find relief from hay fever, the best place to start is taking an allergy test. An allergist usually oversees testing, but some tests can be self-administered at home. At Cleared, we offer at-home testing for the sake of convenience and accessibility. All you need to do is collect a small blood sample – we'll take care of the rest.
For a blood test like the ones we offer, you'll send your sample off to be analyzed at a lab. Then, the lab will deliver the results to an allergist, who will use them to put together a treatment plan that works for you.
Treating Hay Fever
While there's no miracle cure for hay fever, there are several medications and treatment options that can provide you with lasting relief. Here are some of our favorite treatments for hay fever.
This treatment method for allergies works by introducing your body to small amounts of an allergen over long periods of time. Because your allergy symptoms are caused by an oversensitive immune system, getting your body used to the allergens can help to make your symptoms less severe.
There are two types of immunotherapy, and they're both very different from each other:
Subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots) can only be administered in an allergist's office.
Sublingual Immunotherapy (tablets or capsules) can be either taken at home or at an allergist's office.
We're fans of this type of immunotherapy because of its accessibility – you can get remote treatment and guidance from an allergist while going sublingual immunotherapy treatments at home.
Both types of immunotherapy have been found to produce great results in many cases, and it's ultimately up to you to decide which one is best for you.
Antihistamines, decongestants, and other medications can be a huge help in finding the relief that you need from your hay fever symptoms. Over-the-counter and prescription medications can take the edge off your symptoms, but prescription meds tend to be stronger.
To treat seasonal allergies, allergists often recommend taking an over-the-counter antihistamine and seeing if your symptoms improve. There are two classes of non-prescription antihistamines: first-generation, which includes Benadryl and NyQuil, and second-generation, which includes cetirizine (Zyrtec), loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), and others.
The main difference between first-generation and second-generation antihistamines is the side effects that they can produce. Benadryl, for example, tends to make you feel sleepy, while Allegra and other second-gen antihistamines are non-drowsy. Choosing the right antihistamine for you typically comes down to a combination of your lifestyle, the timing of taking your meds, and how severe your allergy symptoms are.
Allergy-Proofing Your Home
If you're suffering from hay fever, it's possible that outdoor allergens aren't the only culprits – allergy triggers might be lurking inside your home, too. Dust mites, mold, and pet dander can all cause hay fever symptoms, and these particles can build up where you live.
Here's how to allergy-proof your home so you can finally breathe easy.
Get Rid of Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic critters that feed on dead skin cells. As if that wasn't bad enough, many people are allergic to the waste left behind by the mites.
If you're dealing with indoor allergy symptoms, dust mites may be the main cause. The mites thrive in carpets, sheets, and other soft surfaces that collect lots of dead skin. To clear them out of your home, powering up the vacuum frequently is a must. In addition, putting mite-proof cases on your pillows and mite-proof sheets over your mattresses may make a big difference in the severity of your symptoms.
Invest in An Air Purifier
Air purifiers can help rid your home of airborne allergens, increasing the quality of the air you breathe in your home. We're big on HEPA filter-equipped purifiers, especially if you suffer from seasonal allergies. These air purifiers are designed to catch airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns, which are very tiny for reference.
Close the Windows
When your allergies are flaring up, it might be because of airborne allergens coming in from outside. Pollen and other particles can float in through your windows in the breeze, which can make your symptoms worse. Closing the windows might block out that fresh air, but it also keeps allergens from getting in!
Need Some Relief From Hay Fever?
If you’re suffering from hay fever and seasonal allergies, we’re here to help. Our team of experienced allergists is pros at diagnosing and treating seasonal allergies. You can book an online consultation today and get started on the path to no more hay fever!
Healthy habits start here
Sign up to our email newsletter
Plus other exclusive offers + ongoing advice from nutritional and medical experts