Ky Le, MD
FAMILY MEDICINE

Dr. Le completed his medical training in Texas, after which he went to work in hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers in Texas, California, and Hawaii. He’s been practicing medicine for 13 years in Hawaii, enjoying the diversity of people and culture that the community has to offer.

<< URGENT CARE

Hay Fever and Seasonal Allergies

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen or grass. This article will discuss hay fever symptoms and treatment.

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How does hay fever manifest?

  • Inflammation in the nose called rhinitis and eyes called conjunctivitis.
  • Cells on the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine.
  • Sometimes the sinuses are affected.
  • Occasionally, the throat may also become affected as well.

Because of its seasonal occurrence, hay fever is sometimes called seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Who can get hay fever?

Although anybody can get hay fever, children and teenagers are more likely to contract it. Hay fever tends to run in families and could be genetic. Symptoms return for a season every year. You are also more likely to contract hay fever if you suffer from asthma or eczema and vice versa.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Common symptoms include. For instance:

  • A runny nose or a stuffy nose
  • An itchy nose
  • Itchy and watery red eyes
  • An itchy throat
  • Sneezing

Less common symptoms include. For instance:

  • Pain in the face
  • Sweats
  • Loss of smell
  • Headaches

Symptoms of asthma-like wheezing and breathlessness may also develop or worsen during hay fever season.

Diagnosing hay fever?

Depending on your symptoms, family history, and your medical history, your doctor can make a diagnosis. Although, additional tests may be necessary. For instance, your doctor may suggest some blood work to confirm if you have a pollen allergy. Your doctor may also suggest a skin prick as well to confirm if you have a pollen allergy. In addition, scans or tests to check the airflow through your nostrils may be used rarely. These scans or tests are used to rule out any other causes of the symptoms.

Will it help if I avoid pollen?

It is not possible to avoid exposure to pollen. However, symptoms are less severe if your exposure is minimal. Therefore, to minimize the exposure you can do the following. For instance:

  • Stay indoors
  • Close all doors and windows
  • Avoid outdoor activities
  • Shower and wash your hair after being outdoors
  • Wear protective gear when you are outdoors
  • Always keep your car windows closed

Treatments

Treatments include the following. For instance:

  • Antihistamine medication
  • Steroid nasal sprays
  • Antihistamine nasal sprays
  • Eye drops

If your hay fever symptoms are not controlled by the medication that you are taking after even 2-4 weeks of treatment, you must discuss this with your physician. Do not start or stop taking the medication without consulting your doctor first.

Treatment for severe symptoms

Your doctor may provide a short course of steroid tablets for a week. Steroid tablets usually work well to reduce inflammation.

Note: A short course is generally safe. But taking steroid tablets for long periods to treat hay fever, may lead to side effects.

Immunotherapy

This treatment is sometimes the last resort. There are two types of immunotherapies. For instance:

Subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT)

This requires injecting the allergen into the tissue right under the skin. This layer is the subcutaneous tissue. Over time, your immune system will become desensitized to the pollen and reduce allergic responses when exposed to the pollen in the future.

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)

As the name suggests, the allergen is placed under the tongue and the logic is similar to SCIT. Typically, the dose is just one tablet a day.

Duration: starting approximately four months before the beginning of the pollen season. Also, it may be necessary to continue for up to three years.

Asthma and hay fever

During hay fever season:

  • If you present with asthma symptoms you may be prescribed an inhaler.
  • If you already suffer from asthma, your asthma might get worse.
  • You may need an increased dosage of your usual inhalers seasonally.

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