Hay Fever Symptoms, Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, affects people of all ages. Hay fever symptoms usually appear in spring, summer and fall when plants release pollen. The pollen from plants, trees and weeds can all cause allergies. When people with hay fever breathe in the particles of pollen, an allergic reaction occurs and causes symptoms and discomfort. Hay fever usually begins in childhood, but can also begin later in life. The severity and symptoms might change with time, often reducing with age.

Common Hay Fever Symptoms

Depending on the severity of hay fever, the symptoms can range from mild to severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Hay fever can cause the following symptoms when exposed to pollen:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny or clogged nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Watery or gooey eyes
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Sinus pressure or pain
  • Itching in the mouth, throat and nose
  • Loss of senses of smell and taste
  • Slowed mental processes
  • Decreased attention span

Many allergic rhinitis symptoms mimic the common cold. You can tell the difference by the consistency of nasal discharge and the duration of the symptoms. In hay fever, nasal discharge will be thin and clear while it will appear thick and yellowish with a cold. The common cold generally lasts a week or less, while hay fever can continue throughout several months.

Prevention

Preventing allergic rhinitis can prove difficult, unfortunately. Avoid being outdoors during peak pollen hours, usually between 5 and 10 am. Pollen levels tend to be lower in the afternoon or after rain. Close up windows in your house, work and cars. Use air conditioning, preferably with a HEPA filter, instead of fans that can pull pollen inside. Keep your floors clean and your home dusted. People and pets bring pollen indoors with them and cleaning reduces the buildup. You can add a HEPA filter to your vacuum cleaner to remove pollen effectively. While hanging laundry out to dry can help reduce energy use and make clothes smell nice, it can cause pollen to collect on the clothes. If you do hang them out to dry, run them in the dryer for 5 to 10 minutes to help reduce pollen. If you must be outside or around pollen, you can wear a mask to keep from breathing in any allergens.

Treatment Options

Neti pot

Over the counter medication may be enough to make hay fever seasons tolerable. If, however, your hay fever symptoms become unbearable, a health care provider can prescribe allergy medications to help, such as antihistamines and decongestants. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be an option if medication doesn’t effectively reduce symptoms. Some people relieve allergic rhinitis with nasal irrigation. Using a neti pot, you can rinse the pollen and congestion out of your nasal passages.

References

University of Maryland Medical Center: Allergic Rhinitis: Symptoms – https://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/how_serious_allergic_rhinitis_000077_5.htm

MedlinePlus: Hay Fever – https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hayfever.html

MayoClinic: Hay Fever – https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hay-fever/DS00174

NIEHS: Pollen – https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/asthma/pollen.cfm

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kurt Yoder