Hay fever, known clinically by the term Allergic Rhinitis, is an inflammatory response by an overactive immune system. Signs and symptoms typical of an allergic response characterize the condition. The allergens are usually pollen, pet hair, molds or simply dust particles.
The age cohort prone to developing hay fever is typically twenty to forty years with genetics and environmental exposure at the background of the condition. Similar to the common cold in presentation, hay fever is different from the former with a “no fever” status.
The core culprit behind the scene of Hay Fever is pollen from different plants as pines, birch, poplar, etc (in springtime) whereas 90% of people are allergic to grass pollen (in late spring and summer). Weed pollen usually gives rise to symptoms in fall while the pollen from molds and fungi are the causative agents in warmer weather.
The mechanism of the allergic reaction involved in Hay Fever is simple, involving IgE antibodies that get attached to the allergens and cause the release of histamine and other inflammatory agents.
Hay fever may be seasonal (prevalent in spring, summer, and early fall) or perennial (lasting throughout a year) with different grades of severity. The suspected allergen may also change with different geographical locations with ten to thirty percent of people falling ill with Hay Fever in the Western world.
“In the U.S., 20 million people aged 18 years and over were diagnosed with hay fever in 2016, or 8.2 percent of the adult population. Nine percent of children or 6.1 million received a diagnosis”
Though the mechanism of Hay Fever at play may simple enough, the signs and symptoms can be debilitating, affecting the daily routine of the affected individual. These include
- Nasal itching
- Excessive nasal discharge which is clear
- Nasal blockage and congestion with accompanying sneezing bouts
- Nasal obstruction
- Red, itchy and watery eyes
- Swelling of the eye lids
- Itchy throat
- Middle ear disturbances
Sweats, headaches, blocked sinuses with pain, and loss of smell and taste indicate a more severe state. The symptoms may be debilitating enough to cause insomnia, irritability, fatigue, and weariness.
Hay Fever is an abnormal response of our immune system and there are some risk factors that render some people more prone to succumb to this allergic state. These are
- Having other allergies simultaneously or suffering from allergic asthma
- Genetic predisposition
- Boys are more at risk before adolescence
- Hay Fever cases are more prevalent in girls after adolescence
- Babies born during prime time season of Hay Fever might yield to this condition later in life
- Exposed to passive smoking in early life predisposes to developing this allergic state
- Some non-specific risk factors that make a child more vulnerable to contracting Hay Fever are firstborns, born in a small family and higher socioeconomic class
Treatment of Hay Fever
Is hay fever treatable? Hay fever cannot be treated as it is an allergic response but the signs and symptoms can be kept in check, via both precautionary and as a therapeutic measure.
There are many therapeutic lines followed for the symptomatic treatment of Hay fever however, they come along with many side effects (allopathic course) or not very effective in alleviating the allergy (homeopathy or acupuncture). The conventional medicine targets the allergic symptoms of Hay Fever with anti histamines, corticosteroids (both oral and nasal), immunotherapy, and eye drops. Some of the side effects of these drugs are
- Failure to remove the nasal blockage
- Nasal medicine may have unpleasant smell, taste or may cause irritation
- Long term use of corticosteroids is associated with cataracts, osteoporosis and muscle weakness
- Nasal corticosteroids may take some time to show results
Owing to these side effects, it is better to take a precautionary approach to the subject matter because Hay Fever is usually treated symptomatically and for such a therapeutic course, natural home based remedies remain the best owing to their ease and convenience as well as an absence of any side effects. Let us have a look at what options do we have for Hay Fever
Honey is more of a precautionary approach to Hay Fever. Since pollen and honey come from the same source, plants, honey may help to desensitize your body similar to a vaccination procedure (where the introduction of an antigen into our body causes antibody production against it). Regular intake of honey may help alleviate the symptoms of Hay Fever before they begin.
Garlic contains quercetin that is an antihistamine. It helps control the symptoms of Hay Fever by boosting immunity and relieving congestion. Take it raw in a crushed form to release its active components.
- Spice (up your life)
Vegetables like radish, hot peppers, wasabi, and mustard have a spicy tinge to it due to a component called capsaicin. This component results in the classic heat or burning sensation of spicy foods and it helps open up the nasal passages with increased blood flow to the local site. This aids in alleviating the inflammatory symptoms of Hay Fever.
- Healthy fats and oils
Fats like olive and fish oil rev up your immunity levels. Individuals consuming margarine and processed food items suffer more from allergic conditions.
- Abstain from dairy, alcohol, chocolate and caffeine, sugar, red meat, wheat, peanuts, processed food and food coloring.
Supplements and vitamins
- Vitamin A, C, E,
Are powerful anti oxidants that enhance the immunity and can be used as a precautionary approach for relieving the symptoms of Hay Fever before they arrive at the scene.
- Flax seed oil
Is enriched with selenium and omega-3 fatty acids. A high intake of omega-3s has been associated with a decreased risk of allergic rhinitis.
Probiotics keep your gut healthy and strong, resulting in an enhanced immunity that fights off any allergens. Use more of cultured yogurt, miso soup, soft cheese, acidophilus milk, and pickles. Taking a Probiotic supplement is also a great aid.
- Dong Quai
Antihistamine and anti-inflammatory
Reduces congestion and secretions by acting as an astringent, aids runny and watery eyes and nose. Add 5 drops of Eyebright tincture to a half ounce of saline and wash your eyes with it for eye relief
- Gingko Biloba
Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory
- Milk thistle
Reduces allergic and inflammatory reactions
- Stinging nettle tea
Antihistamine and anti-inflammatory relieves nose and throat symptoms
Reduces congestion and secretions
- Herbal teas
As chamomile, green tea, peppermint tea, ginger tea, helps alleviate allergic symptoms of Hay Fever
Some useful guidelines for everyday
- Self hypnosis
“A 2005 Swiss study found that hay fever sufferers reported fewer symptoms after they were taught hypnotherapy. Close your eyes, take deep breaths and let go of your tension.”
- Protect your eyes with wrap-around sunglasses
- Quit smoking and get in better health
- Shine a red light up your nose, that will increase the local blood circulation and ease away the inflammatory agents from the site
- Keep super hydrated
- Get some nasal lavage
- Keep your nose moisturized from inside with some non-absorbent ointment to trap the allergens
- Keep the pollen count of your area and try to stay indoors on dry and windy days and when the pollen count hits the 50 grains per cubic meter of air mark
- Keep the inside of your living quarters’ air conditioned
- Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in areas where most of your time is spent
- Use a mask when outdoors and avoid early morning activities when the pollen count is high
- Remove the carpeting and keep the indoors as clean as possible
- Shower frequently to get rid of any pollen in your clothes and on your body
With so many options available, choose wisely according to the severity of your symptoms.