What is it? How to recognise it, how to deal with it? Who does it affect and how does it differ from a runny nose caused by a viral infection?
Here you can find all essential information on hay fever.
What is it and when does it affect patients?
Its official name is allergic rhinitis. It is the most prevalent among all diseases of this type, with one in three people suffering from it.
Hay fever refers to inflammation of the nasal mucosa caused by contact with an allergen.
Allergens can affect people seasonally – including pollen from trees and grasses (birch, alder, hazel, numerous grass species), mould spores (Cladosporium, Alternaria) – causing allergic rhinitis at a particular time of year.
In contrast, sensitivity to allergens such as dust mites or animal fur or occupational allergens (related to the specifics of the workplace) means hay fever occurring regardless of the season – all year round.
Allergic rhinitis resembles a cold in its symptoms. People affected by this condition, usually in spring and summer, first of all observe:
– watery eyes, itching of the nose and throat,
– sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose.
With increasing concentrations of allergens in the air, the following symptoms develop along those above:
– loss of smell and taste,
– increased itching of the eyes and throat and itching of the ears,
– headaches and facial pain (blocked sinuses).
Allergic or ordinary?
In order to distinguish allergic rhinitis from common rhinitis, all symptoms have to be observed carefully:
1. The characteristic feature of hay fever is a watery discharge, which is runny and difficult to stop.
2. Sneezing in hay fever occurs in whole series (several sneezes in a row).
3. Very rarely there is high temperature characteristic of a cold.
4. Only in exceptional situations does superinfection occur and discharge turns purulent.
5. Hay fever with its symptoms is recurrent (seasonal).
Treatment of hay fever
Hay fever should not be underestimated! Firstly: it significantly reduces quality of life and hinders daily functioning, and secondly: if left untreated, it leads to the development of other diseases (inflammation of the sinuses, middle ear, larynx and even bronchial asthma).
Great relief from the discomfort caused by allergic rhinitis can be provided by:
– saline irrigation (flushing allergens from the nasal mucosa, recommended after outdoor activities),
– herbal medicine (e.g. nigella oil, milk thistle).
Seeing an allergist
After the first incident of hay fever in your life, it is best to see an allergist. Allergen skin tests and (in addition) intranasal provocation tests are performed for a clear diagnosis.
The medication used to treat allergic rhinitis is determined by the doctor and is introduced gradually.
Possible medications fall into three groups:
High-efficacy intranasal glucocorticosteroids used regularly according to strict recommendations of the allergist.
Mucosal vasoconstrictors applied ad hoc, for no longer than a few days, stop watery leakage.
Antihistamines (e.g. tablets) help relieve bothersome sneezing, itching and watery eyes.
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