by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Seasonal allergies, commonly referred to a hay fever, are allergies that occur only during certain parts of the year – usually spring and fall as well as summer. These seasons are when various outdoor plants like trees and grasses release their pollen particle and outdoor molds release their spores into the air. In people that suffer from allergies the immune system treats these particles as foreign invaders and attempts to fight them. The immune system does this by releasing chemicals including histamine into the body causing the symptoms.
Seasonal allergies are usually diagnosed by the time an individual is 20 years old with the average age for diagnosis being 10 years. However, it is possible to develop allergies at anytime. Seasonal allergies are an autoimmune abnormality and as with other autoimmune abnormalities they tend to run in families. It is estimated that more than half of the individuals suffering from seasonal allergies have a close relative with a history of allergies. An individual can also suffer from more than one allergy at the same time. For example, a person that suffers from tree pollens like oak or maple that has symptoms in the spring when they pollinate can also be allergic to certain grasses that pollinate in the summer so will also have symptoms in the summer.
Though the allergens differ the symptoms are pretty much the same. The reason the symptoms are similar is because they all have the same effect on the body, they cause an inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the passages of the nose and sinuses. Though seasonal allergies are referred to as “hay fever” they are not caused by hay and there is no fever. The first symptom to indicate that it’s allergy season is usually itchy watery eyes that is sometimes accompanied by a tickle in the back of the throat and a dry cough. Soon after the sneezing usually begins. The sneezes usually occur in cycles of rapidly repeating sneezes. Some allergy sufferers can experience more severe symptoms including headaches, and congestion with wheezing and coughing. Inflammation of the eyes and eye lids can also occur.
Diagnosis is usually made be first ruling out other medical issues like a cold. Allergy sufferers do not have a fever and the mucous from sinus drainage is clear indicating there is no infection present. Then the doctor will take a history asking questions about when, where, and how long do the symptoms last. For example the pollen count usually peaks between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. daily, this is when allergy symptoms would be the most severe.
Allergies affect over 40 million Americans and they spend over $1 billion a year to treat them. Most allergies can be treated with OTC medications, however there are those that suffer from multiple severe allergies that may require further intervention. When the allergy is severe the Dr will test further to determine the exact allergen. There a variety of allergy injections available to day to help provide relief to those sufferers.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.