What is Hay Fever?

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What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is a condition characterized by symptoms similar to the common cold like nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. It is also called allergic rhinitis because symptoms develop as a result of exposure to some allergens.

The term “hay fever” is actually a misnomer for this medical condition since it is not usually caused by exposure to hay and fever is not one of its symptoms. The term perhaps stuck to the condition of sneezing and eye irritation when people were handling hay in the past. This is why some people prefer to call this condition as allergic rhinitis. This condition is quite common and affects about 1/3 of all Americans, with most of them children. Basic symptoms of hay fever include congestion in nasal passages, runny nose, frequent sneezing, eye irritation and itching. In moderate to severe cases, there may be loss of smell and taste, sore throat, ear irritations and even nasal bleeding.

Pollens and molds are examples of allergens present in the environment that may cause hay fever. These allergens are usually airborne and enter the body through the nose, mouth, and eyes. When these allergens are in the body, they produce symptoms similar to the common cold. But if these symptoms progress to breathing difficulties, or profuse nasal bleeding, and/or heavy ear discharges, one must seek immediate medical attention.

Prior to treatment, doctors usually identify the allergen that caused the symptoms. Skin tests and/or blood tests are done for this purpose. After which, treatment may be commenced as per the direction of a doctor. Antihistamines are commonly prescribed to combat the allergic reactions. For those with nasal congestion, nasal sprays and decongestants may be given. Others may be given various anti-inflammatory drugs. But the best advice usually given by doctors is to try to avoid contact with a known allergen to prevent catching the illness.

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