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Hay Fever 101 - Is it Really Hay Fever?

Posted by Mark Bubak, M.D. on Jul 18, 2017 10:21:53 AM
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It seems that everyone has “hay fever” these days.  If you don’t believe me, just ask people if they are suffering from sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, watery eyes, and itching of the nose, eyes or even mouth!

But what does it really mean to have hay fever?

Hay fever is the eye and nose allergy condition (allergic rhinoconjunctivitis) caused by ragweed pollens.  If it caused from tree pollens and is often called “rose bush fever”.  It’s amazing how the names don’t match the cause!

Ragweed pollens can float through the air for at least 300 miles on their quest to make new ragweed plants.  These pollens are inhaled by people and recognized by their IgE antibodies on the nasal or eye mucosal surface as intruders and set off the allergic reaction.  That leads to the itchy, watery eyes and / or the itchy, sneezy, runny, congested nose.  Yuck!

Allergists use the time of the year a patient has their allergy symptoms and matches that to the allergens they are tested for (plus an exam, etc.) to get to the hay fever diagnosis.  Once that is done a treatment plan and medication options are presented to the patient.

Tips to Feel Better

Avoiding allergies by keeping the house closed and using the A/C helps some people feel better.  However, others need to add medications like antihistamines.  For others, they need to take antihistamines and a nasal steroid daily starting 10 days or so before the pollen starts.  Allergy eye drops can also decrease some of the itchy, watery eye symptoms.  If these interventions don’t work well enough, the patient receives immunotherapy to become less allergic long term so symptoms are greatly reduced and not so much medication is needed.  Both allergy shots and under the tongue immunotherapy options are available for ragweed allergy.

That’s the story with hay fever.  There’s no reason to put up with it!


Topics: allergies, allergic rhinitis, hay fever, allergy shots, allergy treatments