What is Hay Fever

Hay Fever is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis and is a type of allergic inflammation in nasal passage. The allergens causing the inflammation can be pollen, dust, animal dander. Allergens can be indoor or outdoors

The term ‘Hay Fever’ is a misnomer because, neither is it caused by ‘hay’ nor is it accompanied by fever. Symptoms of hay fever vary from person to person but runny or blocked nose, sneezing bouts, itchy eyes are common symptoms. 

Hay fever can be Seasonal, occurring only during pollen season or perennial, which occurs throughout year. Tiny pollens of wind pollinated plants, grass and trees are the main cause and specific pollen triggering hay fever can vary from region to region. Spring and autumn are considered to be hay fever seasons but people who are sensitive to some other pollen, can also get hay fever symptoms during winters. Pollen from trees like birch pollen, grass pollen, pollen from weeds like ragweed, nettle, mugwort are some common plant pollens causing hay fever.

Molds are other common allergens which unlike pollens are present throughout the year and can cause perennial allergic rhinitis. They can survive in outdoor conditions like soil, damp wood or indoors in moist places like bathrooms, basements etc.

When a body’s immune system overreacts to harmless airborne particles, symptoms of hay fever develop. In response to the allergen, their bodies release antibodies called IgE (immunoglobulin) to fight the infection as they perceive it as an invader. This antibody causes certain cells, present in nose, eyes and throat, to release chemicals; one of which is histamine, which is responsible for most of the hay fever symptoms. Runny nose with clear, watery discharge, repeated sneezing, post nasal drip, soft palate, watery and itchy eyes, general fatigue are few characteristic of hay fever.

In normal people pollen, dust, mold will not trigger a response like it does in hay fever sufferers. Genetic factors, environment plays an important role in development of hay fever. If a person is repeatedly exposed to a specific allergen, or one or more of his family members have hay fever, then there are chances of him developing hay fever. People with asthma, eczema or food allergies can put them at risk of developing hay fever.

It is important to treat this condition as it can develop into asthma over a period of time if left untreated. For mild symptoms, antihistamines can bring relief to the symptoms. Nasal corticosteroids, decongestant can bring some relief but each one of it has some side effects. Immunotherapy or allergy shots also have been successful in some patients. Avoiding the allergen completely is the best solution to get rid of this condition.