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Hay fever

Hayfever

The term hay fever is a misnomer:  the condition is not caused by hay, nor does it produce fever. The clinical name is seasonal allergic rhinitis, which is a type of allergy.

In some people the immune system is overactive and identifies normally harmless particles as dangerous, producing an excessive reaction. This reaction results in the release of powerful chemical agents of which histamine is the best known.

These substances cause very severe swelling of the mucous membrane lining the nasal passages and conjunctiva of the eyes, intense itching and sneezing and the production of large amounts of watery mucus.

A person may have any or all of the following symptoms:

  • Severe bouts of sneezing, especially in the morning;
  • Intense itching of the nose and of the palate and even the ear canals;
  • Watery nasal mucus; Stuffy nose all the time or during specific seasons;
  • Itchy and teary eyes;
  • Eyes are sensitive to light;
  • Reddened, pebbly lining in the lower eyelids;
  • Dark circles under the eyes as a result of pressure from blocked nasal passages on the small blood vessels;
  • Headaches because of pressure from inside the nose or from the sinus canals being blocked and a negative pressure-sinus headache;
  • Nasal blockage associated with headache, persistent dripping at the back of the throat, and bad breath, suggests chronic sinusitis rather than rhinitis.

Allergens which cause hay fever are the pollens of grass, trees and a few weed species, all of which are wind-pollinated. It is only the small, light wind-borne pollens which cause the allergic reaction in the nose. Allergic rhinitis that occurs all year round is mainly caused by house dust mite, animals and moulds.

It is impossible to avoid the allergens which cause this form of rhinitis, e.g., grass pollens, so medical treatment is unavoidable in most cases. Speak to your pharmacist about the most appropriate treatment for you. Treatment for hay fever almost always includes antihistamine tablets and antihistamine nasal sprays and steroid sprays.

Source: KK Publishers