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Hay Fever

Hay Fever Basics

What is Hay Fever?

Hay Fever is an allergic reaction, the immune system's reaction to substances in the air. In reality, hay fever has nothing to do with hay or fever, but the name was likely attributed to the condition from people having sneezing reactions to hay. The proper medical term for this condition is Allergic Rhinitis. It is a very common condition, affecting up to 1 in 4 people. Most people know one or two people who suffer from itchy, watery eyes and a stuffy nose, usually during the spring or summer time. This is likely to be hay fever. Generally, the term is reserved for allergies to pollen and mold that exist airborne.

Hay fever is one of the "atopic triads" which consist of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), atopic dermatitis (eczema), and allergic asthma. These tendencies have a strong hereditary tendency and are often passed down to children. If you have a family history of one or more of the above problems, you are more likely than the average person to suffer from hay fever. If you have hay fever, you will be more likely to have sensitivity to other non-airborne allergens too. Hay fever is slightly more likely to affect children, but can affect anyone.


The symptoms of hay fever are distinct and relatively easy to identify. The main symptoms are itch and swelling of the nose, eyes, and the central regions of the face, and the discomfort can be significant. Sufferers often report that they can tell if they are about to suffer from hay fever that day as soon as they wake up, probably because of minor symptoms that are manifesting that they are able to detect.

  • Itching around the nose and eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Swelling of the eyelids
  • Redness around the nose and eyes
  • Extra sensitivity around the central face region
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling of having plugged ears
  • Fatigue and exhaustion (especially if other symptoms are severe)

It is extremely rare, but some people will show severe allergic reactions that call for immediate action. If you notice these symptoms, you need to treat it as a medical emergency, and go to a hospital:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe earache
  • High fever
  • If any of the symptoms do not improve within a day after exposure

What is happening:

An allergic reaction is the cause of the swelling, itching, and inflammation. Airborne allergens are unfortunately plentiful, and it will often be difficult to narrow the cause to one allergen. When the allergen comes into contact with the antibodies, chemicals are released which causes the reactions such as inflammation. In essence, allergies are hypersensitivities to certain harmless substances, which the body perceives as a threat, and overreacts to. Histamine is often triggered, which causes much of the symptoms of hay fever. Antihistamine pills can contain this reaction, relieving some of the symptoms of this common problem. Although an allergist will be required to narrow down the allergen, the following are the most common causes of airborne allergens:

  • Pollen (from common plants)
  • Dust
  • Animal dander
  • Mold
  • Airborne pollution
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