Hay fever affects 8% of the United States population according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. It typically occurs during spring but can also affect people in the summer.
Want to know how to relieve yourself of hay fever? Here is what you need to know about its diagnosis and treatment:
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is essentially an allergic reaction that occurs during specific seasons. It is supposedly named after the haying season, a time of the year when most people develop the symptoms due to seasonal triggers.
Dust mites, pollen, and pet dander are common culprits. When your immune system perceives these as threats, your body produces antibodies and releases histamine. These processes trigger an allergic reaction that manifests as hay fever symptoms.
Hay Fever Vs. Common Cold
Hay fever shares several symptoms with the common cold or infectious rhinitis, but there are some important differences between the two. The common cold is caused by a virus and is characterized by thick yellow nasal discharge. In most cases, it is accompanied by body aches and fever. The symptoms do not develop right away — instead, they appear one to three days after virus exposure. A cold lasts for a few days to a week.
On the other hand, most patients with hay fever experience runny noses with clear discharge but no fever. These symptoms develop immediately after exposure to the allergen. One of the main differences is the duration of hay fever lasts if you are exposed to the trigger.
If left untreated, hay fever dramatically decreases your quality of life. The symptoms can prevent you from functioning normally and keep you from the activities you enjoy. It can impair sleep, worsen pre-existing conditions like asthma, and increase susceptibility to related diseases like sinusitis.
Hay Fever Diagnosis
The first step in your hay fever treatment is to identify what is causing your allergic reaction. Your doctor will start by reviewing your medical history and asking about your symptoms. Then, they will perform an allergy test to determine the culprits behind your allergic reaction.
There are several allergy testing methods, but the exact procedure will depend on your diagnosis. A skin prick test is a common and painless procedure, where an allergen is introduced directly to your body. Your doctor will use a needle to get the allergen under the surface of the skin. If you are allergic, the area will become irritated and red within half an hour.
During an immunoglobulin (IgE) blood test, your blood sample is exposed to common allergens. An increased antibody count indicates an allergic reaction to that particular substance.
Hay Fever Treatment
Once the results of the allergy test are available, your doctor will discuss your allergy treatment options. One of the easiest ways is to avoid the trigger. Once you know what is triggering your hay fever, you can take action to reduce your exposure. You may have to take steps such as wearing a face mask or using mite-proof bedding.
Your doctor can also prescribe medication to reduce the severity of your symptoms. Antihistamines block histamine, the chemical released by your body during an allergic reaction. This medicine is available orally, through eye drops, nasal sprays, or inhalers.
If you suffer from a stuffy nose, your doctor can prescribe decongestants. However, these medications can cause headaches, mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Do not take nasal decongestants for more than two or three consecutive days. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions when taking these medications and call if you experience any side effects.
For moderate to advanced hay fever symptoms, your doctor may recommend nasal corticosteroids. Unlike antihistamines that may not be as effective when symptoms have already developed, corticosteroids can help with late response and prevent future reactions.
If you would like to explore longer-lasting allergy treatments, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy. This treatment involves gradual and controlled exposure to the allergen over some time. You will receive injections of diluted allergy extracts. Your doctor will slowly increase the dose, allowing you to build tolerance. This long-term treatment option can help reduce or even eliminate hay fever symptoms.
Hay Fever Treatment in Downers Grove, Naperville, Elmhurst, & Plainfield, IL
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for hay fever. The body reacts differently to allergens. So, what works for one person may not necessarily work for you. It is essential to find a doctor with the skills and knowledge to treat all kinds of allergies.
For personalized hay fever treatment, consult with Oak Brook Allergists. Our board-certified doctors can diagnose and treat a wide range of allergies. We use skin, blood, and food tests to determine your specific allergens. Once we identify your trigger, we can craft a customized treatment plan to help you take back control of your life away from the hay fever.
Call us at (630) 574-0460 or fill out our online appointment request form to schedule an appointment. We look forward to helping you get rid of hay fever!