Cause, symptoms and treatment of hay fever

in Fever

fever - Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis
Hayfever is the common term for an allergic reaction that takes place at certain times of the year upon exposure to pollen and fungal spores (not hay!). Hay fever is a common condition that affects 2 to 3 million people in Britain every year. In a recent study conducted it has been confirmed that the overall quality of life is significantly impaired in subjects with allergic rhinitis affecting peoples daily lives, but can be drastically improved by treatment. According to the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECHS), it was found that 21% of the population suffer with allergic rhinitis, but this figure could be higher as a lot of people do not consult their doctor regarding their hay fever, but are treating themselves with over the counter treatments.

The first step in knowing whether you have hay fever is to know what hay fever is exactly and to understand the regulating mechanisms behind the hay fever symptoms.
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Hayfever is triggered when microscopic pollen particles come into contact with the cells in the nose, mouth and eyes of an allergic person. The allergic reaction happens when the body's immune system mistakes the pollen for a harmful substance, and tries to defend itself, by releasing antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE) cells that attack the pollen to rid of them from the body. This causes special chemicals such as Histamine (which can be counteracted with Anti-histamines) to be released; and it is the histamine which causes the allergic symptoms .

Allergic Rhinitus can be classified into 2 groups, seasonal (hay fever) and Perennial Rhinitus. Hay fever is caused by specific pollens or moulds which are released at certain times of the year, whereas Perennial Rhinitus can be caused by a wide range of allergens that produce the same symptoms, commonly house dust. Often people who suffer from hay fever can also be allergic to a range of other allergens too.

Pollens are among the most allergenic of substances and hay fever can have a dramatic impact on severe sufferers lives. You are more likely to get hay fever if there is a prevalence of it in your family, and usually affects people between the ages of 20 - 40. It can interfere with exam results, has a detrimental effect in the work place, through days off sick, and impairs interaction with colleagues through drippy noses and sneezing. Hay fever affects driving and other demanding tasks, either by its symptoms or reduced reflexes due to medication. However, with perseverance, it is possible to control your hay fever effectively, by finding the right medication or by experimenting with a range of solutions.

If you have hayfever, you may be allergic to only one type of pollen, or several of them. In the UK 95% of people are allergic to grass pollen. The grass pollen season can start as early as may, and not finish until mid August, peaking in late June, early July.

The second most common allergen is Birch pollen, affecting about 25% of hay fever sufferers. The birch season is April. But some trees such as hazel, elm and alder release their pollens as early as January due to the climate change.

Allergy to the pollen from weeds such as nettles is also extremely common, and the season for this can span from April to mid-September.

For most hay fever sufferers the suffering lasts a few weeks, but for unlucky people who are sensitive to a range of pollens it can last for many months.

Hayfever Diagnosis
Hay fever can be diagnosed quite easily; the symptoms and the family history can usually determine whether you have this condition. There are several ways to test for hayfever, the most common being prick skin testing, intradermal skin test, blood testing and patch skin testing to just to mention a few. Most of these tests need to be conducted at a doctors office. Allergymatters can provide Allergy Tests for use at home, which can test your levels of IgE allergy antibodies in a similar way to hospital allergy tests.
Common symptoms of hay fever include a tender, itchy, runny nose accompanied by sneezing and coughing. The sinuses may also begin to swell up, which causes the Eustachian (tube that connects the ear to throat) tube to be blocked, causing stuffiness. Hay fever leads to itchy, watery eyes leading to redness and swelling of the eyes forming dark circles under the eyes. Mucus may drip from the sinus into the throat, which causes the throat to become sore and may also leading to sneezing. Itchiness may also persist deep in the ears, throat and nose. Hayfever can also make conditions such as asthma worse, and bring on a bout of wheezing.

A lot of the symptoms are commonly associated with other allergy conditions such as Dust mite, Asthma, Mould Allergy and Eczema.

Tips for Prevention

There are several steps you can take to minimise the symptoms of Seasonal Rhinitus, or hay fever. Some of the most common preventative methods are:

•  Stay indoor with the windows closed during the morning hours, when pollen levels are the highest. Plants produce the most pollen between 5 and 10 a.m. and before dusk. Keep track of the pollen count by updating yourself with the Pollen Calendar. Click here to read our article on this topic.

•  While driving keep car windows and doors closed. Some cars can be fitted with car pollen filters.

•  Avoid summer meadows and areas of flowering grasses. Seaside areas usually contain lower pollen counts.

•  Wear sunglasses to stop any pollen from entering the eyes.

•  Wash clothes and hair after being outside to remove any trapped pollen. Dry clothes in tumble dryer; do not hang laundry outside as it collects pollen.

•  Do not plant tress or shrubs too close to the house and get rid of weeds.

•  Ceiling fans may aggravate the problem by drawing air into the house from outside. Use of HEPA Air Purifiers can remove 99.97% of particles such as pollen from the air. Click here to read article HayFever : Benefits of Air conditioning Air purifiers for allergen - Hay Fever control

•  It is important to maintain a healthy diet rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E, which helps strengthen the immune system to help fight against the hayfever symptoms. Read our article on nutrition and hay fever.

* Mowing the lawn is by far the most harmful exercise for anyone allergic to grass pollens and the mould that grows on grass
* Some tree pollens, e.g. horse chestnut are relatively heavy and so do not travel very far; making them easier to avoid
* Avoid mucus-forming foods such as dairy products, refined wheat products and processed foods in general.

If you suffer from Perennial Rhinitus which affects you all year round, you can help by avoiding mould spores, house dust and animal wastes around the house:

•  Keep the house dry all the time with the help of Dehumidifiers , which prevent surfaces around the house from being moist, which increase the chances of mould growth.

•  Vacuum frequently with a suitable vacuum cleaner that has high filtration to remove dust from carpets and floors to avoid dust mite growth.

•  In hot humid weather, an efficient air conditioner can help filter out particles in the air and leave the air cool and refreshed.

•  Keep bathroom surfaces and walls clean with the use of disinfectants, to prevent the formation of moulds. See our range of natural chemical free cleaning products.

•  If you are sensitive to animals, avoid contact, and wash hands after contact. It is important to have pets bathed and groomed regularly with the use of animal shampoos. You can also treat your home environment with allergy sprays, which will help to neutralise the allergy too. See our range of natural chemical free Pet products.
Hay fever can usually be controlled by avoiding allergens, taking appropriate medications and using immunotherapy. Hay fever can come and go, in some cases the allergic reactions may increase with age but other times they may disappear altogether.

Defence in the Body

These are several types of treatments that can help with the symptoms of hay fever. These include:

Antihistamines: these help block the action of the histamine, the chemical substance that is produced in by the IgE antibody and causes many of the symptoms in hay fever. Targeting histamine molecule has been known to be the most effective form of treatment for hay fever. Sodium Cromoglycate: prevents allergic reaction in the nose and eyes.

Topical Remedies: Topical creams and ointments work by applying them directly on the skin surfaces, which blocks the common particles such as pollen from coming into contact with the skin. Topical corticosteroids work by reducing the inflammation and swelling of the tissue. They are known to work slower and last longer than most other medications, because of this they should be applied to prevent the common hay fever symptoms.

Decongestants: These work by shrinking the blood vessels and reduce the loss of fluid from the blood, which tends to be related to the symptoms hay fever. These can be sold in several medicinal forms such as Nasal Sprays, Tablets, and Syrups. The use of decongestants has been associated with common side effects such as high blood pressure and therefore should not be taken over a lengthy period of time. Barriers: These include products as simple as face masks, sunglasses or greasy barrier creams, such as Hay Max that can be applied to apply to the nasal passages to prevent pollen from aggravating your respiratory tract. Steroids: To reduce inflammation in the nose or eyes.

Desensitisation: Works in the same way as a vaccination. It involves a course of injections containing a small amount of pollen, allowing the body to build up a defence.Homeopathic Treatments shown to be of benefit in some trials.

Herbal Remedies For those people looking for natural hay fever relief, herbal remedies can help in reducing and preventing the hay fever symptoms. Many of the herbal remedies include ingredients from plant extracts- the same plants that can cause the allergic reaction. These come in many forms such as eye drops, tablets, syrups and nasal sprays. Some of the most common known herbs for hay fever relief are Luffa , Nettle, Eyebright and Euphrasia.
Defence around the Home

When trying to minimise your hay fever, it is important think about your home and work environment too. Allergens can be trapped in your clothes, your soft furnishings and even your pets fur, so you need to minimise your exposure to these allergens. The measures that you can take may include the use of Laundry Detergents that help neutralise pet, pollen and dust mite allergens from clothes and fabrics, and Anti Allergy sprays that oxidise allergens on surfaces around the home and the air. See our range of natural chemical free cleaning products.

Steam Cleaners: Steam cleaners are a very effective way to get rid of pollens, as the hot steam temperatures are able to kill the harmful effects of the allergens, and can effectively sterilize your carpets, soft furnishings and floors. A steam cleaner that uses suction, such as the Allergymatters Steambee Steam'n Vac can work even better for total allergen removal, and now there are even steam cleaners such as the allergymatters Steambee Steam ‘n Vac & Detergent that can be used with a dose of anti allergen solutions too.

Vacuums: Using a vacuum cleaner can have a dramatic effect in controlling allergens such as dust mites and pollen making the air more breathable and cleaner. Replace an old inefficient vacuum cleaner with one fitted with a HEPA filter which is capable of capturing 99.97% particles down to 0.3 microns

• Defence from the Environment:It is now known that indoor air can often be more polluted than the air outdoors and can have detrimental affects on your health. With people spending over 90% of their time within their home, you can't underestimate the importance of having clean, breathable air around the home.

Air Purifiers: Devices, which work to remove contaminants from the air, such as allergens, smoke particles and chemicals. Several factors should be considered when purchasing an air purifier, most important being the quality of the filter and the efficiency of the machine to output clean air (CADR- the clean air delivery rate).

Air conditioners and Air coolers: The typical function of air conditioners is to draw the hot air from your indoor environment, extract the heat and humidity and pump it outside, releasing cool air back indoors. Combining this function with high efficiency filters means that you can not only keep the air cool and dry, but can also filter harmful particles out of the air that cause indoor air pollution and allergic reactions. Several factors should be considered when purchasing the right Air Conditioner. Click here for Allergymatters in depth review of air conditioners and what to look for when purchasing one.

Dehumidifiers: These appliances reduce the amount of humid air indoors, which play an important role of mould growth and spores circulation within the air around the house.

Author Box
Kunbi Balogun has 1 articles online

Dr Jawad Amjad MSc Kingston University

Add New Comment

Cause, symptoms and treatment of hay fever

Log in or Create Account to post a comment.
Security Code: Captcha Image Change Image
Showing 1 comments

Sort by: Subscribe by RSS

  • comment_image

    mary- 2010/12/29 21:49:29 pm

    I have pollen allergies and I air dry all my clothes, which is much better for my clothes and the environment. I simply use a laundry drying rack inside my house. Most electric dryers are one of the largest user of power in a house after air conditioners and refrigerators. Since those of us with allergies really need our air conditioning, which we can set at a high temp to help the energy and budget issue and since we all need refrigeration for our food storage. Air drying our clothes is a great step towards conservation.

This article was published on 2010/12/16