What Is Hay Fever?

You feel that familiar tickle in the back of your throat and keep a box of tissues by your side from March through June. Every year, like clockwork, your hay fever kicks in.

But what actually is hay fever? And what makes you more likely to suffer than someone else in your household?

What Is Hay Fever?

Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is an allergic response to certain indoor and outdoor allergens. 

It causes cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes. However, unlike a cold, hay fever isn’t accompanied by a fever.

Besides just being annoying and sometimes painful, hay fever can cause you to miss school or work, or decrease your performance in daily activities while symptoms persist.

What Are the Symptoms of Hay Fever?

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that are considered part of hay fever. You may experience some or all of these symptoms, including:

  • Runny nose

  • Nasal congestion

  • Sinus pressure

  • Watery, itchy, red eyes

  • Sneezing

  • Cough

  • Itchy nose, roof of the mouth, or throat

  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes

  • Postnasal drip

  • Fatigue

What Causes Hay Fever?

Hay fever is caused by the reaction to certain indoor or outdoor allergens. These allergens may be present year-round, or they could be seasonal.

Some common allergens that contribute to hay fever include:

  • Pet dander

  • Dust mites

  • Tree pollen (early spring)

  • Grass pollen (late spring and summer)

  • Ragweed pollen (fall)

  • Cockroaches

  • Spores from indoor and outdoor mold and fungi

When you are exposed to a substance you’re allergic to, your immune system sees that substance - though harmless - as a threat.

Your immune system produces antibodies to attack these “harmful” substances. The next time you come into contact with these substances, your immune system signals your body to produce histamine and release it into your bloodstream, which causes the symptoms that are associated with hay fever.

Who Is at Risk for Hay Fever?

Anyone can develop allergies to any substance, regardless of age or previous experience with an allergen.

Some things that may make you more susceptible to the allergic reactions that trigger hay fever include:

  • Having other allergies or asthma

  • Having eczema

  • Having a blood relative, such as a parent or sibling, with allergies or asthma

  • Living or working in an environment where you’re exposed to allergens

  • Having a mother who smoked during your first year of life

How Is Hay Fever Treated?

Many people live with hay fever without seeking treatment until their symptoms become so severe that it impacts their quality of life.

While there is no cure or treatment for hay fever as a whole, you can treat the symptoms to make yourself more comfortable.

Some common treatments for the symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Nasal corticoseroids: Nasal sprays that include steroids can be found over-the-counter or by prescription. They’re a safe, effective long-term treatment for many sufferers.

  • Antihistamines: These medications, either over-the-counter or prescription, block the production of histamine when you’re exposed to an allergen. Many people take antihistamines in pill form, but they also are available as eye drops or nasal sprays.

  • Decongestants: If you suffer from nasal blockage and sinus pain, decongestants can loosen the mucus and allow you to breathe more easily.

  • Allergy shots: For those with severe allergy symptoms, allergy shots can help the body get used to the trigger allergens and decrease the need for medication. You are given small amounts of your allergen in a shot at regular intervals over the course of 3 to 5 years, and your progress is monitored.

Allergy Diagnosis & Treatment in Mississippi

At the Mississippi Asthma & Allergy Clinic, it is our goal to help anyone suffering from allergies or asthma get the diagnosis and treatment they need to manage symptoms and lead a healthy, fulfilling life. We offer diagnostic testing, subcutaneous & sublingual immunotherapy, oral challenges, and more for children and adults at each of our five locations throughout Mississippi. Schedule an appointment today!