Hay fever (rhinitis) is an allergic condition characterized by inflammation of the nasal passages, produced by an allergic reaction to pollen. Hay fever most commonly appears during the spring summer and early fall seasons. Hay fever can develop at any age, although it is most common in children and teen agers.
Hay fever is usually caused by the pollen of trees, grasses and weeds. These pollens are dispersed by the wind, making them easily be inhaled by any human being. Among North American plants, ragweed is the major cause of hay fever, although sagebrush, Russian thistle, English plantain, and Lamb´s quarter are among other culprits. Trees that generate allergenic pollen include ash, elm, oak, pecan, and mountain cedar. Grasses include Kentucky grass, orchard grass, Bermuda grass, and redtop grass.
When the pollen is detected by the mast cells of the immune system, they immediately release highly reactive substances, including histamine. Histamine initiates dilatation of the blood vessels, causing fluids to flee into surrounding tissues. This produces swelling of tissues and redness of the eyes and nose. Pain receptors are also stimulated by histamine which causes the itchiness of the nose, eyes, and throat.
A major symptom of hay fever is inflammation of the nose with the common characteristics of sneezing, itching, redness, tenderness, and runny nose. Fatigue and headaches are other symptoms of hay fever along with respiratory congestion and reduced sense of smell.
A thorough medical history examination may give reliable information about the first appearance of the symptoms, as well as their recurrence. An effective diagnosis of hay fever is done by observing the reaction of an injected extract of the suspected allergen into the skin. A similar test is done by placing an extract of the allergen in the conjunctiva of the eye. A blood test may also be used to diagnose the disease.
A diet rich in fiber and whole foods is recommended along with sufficient amounts of vegetables including carrots, beet, celery, spinach, cucumber, and parsley can help reduce the symptoms of hay fever. Six to eight glasses of water a day along with herbal teas will help as well. It´s best to avoid dairy products, meat, citrus fruits, chocolate, shellfish, peanuts, and preservatives, as they will only aggravate hay fever. Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and sugar should also be avoided.
Supplements which result beneficial for treating hay fever include vitamins A, C, E, and B complex, especially vitamin C, as it´s a natural antihistamine. Essential fatty acids like the ones contained in evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, or fish oil are recommended as daily supplements. The enzyme glutathione peroxide can help neutralize the allergic reactions of hay fever. Selenium may help stop inflammation.
Although antihistamines block the action of histamine, they are most effective when used preventively, before the appearance of hay fever. Azelastine, a nasal spray antihistamine causes fewer side effects than oral antihistamines. Decongestants counteract the effects of histamine. They are effective at reducing the symptoms of nasal congestion. Nasal spray decongestants can be applied directly into the nose. Decongestants may increase heart rate and blood pressure, and may produce headaches.
A reduce exposure to pollen will assure a reduction of the symptoms In order to prevent hay fever it is recommended to remain indoors when pollen levels are higher; roll up car windows while driving; avoid fields and forests during the pollen season; use and replace air filters regularly at home. While these suggestions will prevent you from acquiring hay fever, don´t forget to seek the advice of your physician if any symptoms of the disease begin to appear.