Did you know?
Hay fever is not really a fever (it does not elevate body temperature to feverish levels). It got its name when it was first recognized as a condition because it spiked during haying season and was believed to be caused by the smell of cut hay.
With spring arriving and winter colds waning, many people take a deep breath of relief - only to find themselves sniffling and sneezing again.
If you long for the moment to open windows and doors to enjoy a warm breeze, think again. Seasonal allergies have arrived. And they are here to stay until the fall, affecting millions of North Americans.
At least one in five US residents experiences either allergy or asthma symptoms, experts say. More than 55% of Americans get positive test results for one or more allergens.
Allergies may cause attack-like fits of sneezing that can be bothersome but also quite dangerous (while driving, for example) and they can hurt your bottom line as well: About 4 million workdays are lost each year due to hay fever. Allergies are known to affect sleep, productivity and concentration. Aside from the sneezing, allergy symptoms also include nasal congestion, cough, eyes that are red, itchy and watery, and clear mucus coming from a runny nose. If you find yourself suffering from a number of these, you may be reacting to allergens around you.
A seasonal allergy, including hay fever, is comparable to any other allergy - meaning that your immune system is overreacting to something in the environment because it has become sensitized.
The most common seasonal allergens are
For most effective treatment, it is important to know the causes of the allergy symptoms. It may be more than pollen, since 2 out of 3 people affected by allergies in the spring also experience year-round symptoms. As with any other health problem, it is best to see an expert. Allergists may be able to shed light on individual cases.
Fresh air is great -but if open windows mean allergic triggers start invading your home, it may be better to keep windows and doors closed. That’s because the evidence is clear: The best way to combat allergies is to avoid exposure to the trigger in the first place. If avoidance is not possible, decreasing exposure is a second best.
Of course, medication is also readily available over the counter. They include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays and combination medications. Alternative treatments include natural supplements (such as butterbur) and acupuncture. Some people swear by it, some need further scientific evidence that they work.
Your doctor may also suggest immunotherapy to desensitize you to known allergens. These allergy shots help reduce hay fever symptoms in about 85 percent of people with allergic rhinitis.
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