Reston Hospital Center - March 23, 2020

Ah-choo! Top 4 ways to deal with hay fever

Blooming flowers and trees are a sure sign of spring, but they also may bring a runny nose, sneezing and puffy eyes.

Yes, hay fever is another clue that spring is in the air.

In the spring, grass and tree pollen are the most common triggers for hay fever, known medically as “allergic rhinitis.” In the fall, ragweed, weed pollen and outdoor mold can trigger hay fever.

These irritants cause your body to release histamines and other chemicals that make your nose run and eyes itch along with symptoms such as sneezing, coughing from post-nasal drip and possibly wheezing.

Other causes of allergic rhinitis are found indoors and include:

  • Cockroaches
  • Mold
  • Dust mites
  • Irritants, such as smoke and perfume
  • Pet hair or dander

Hay fever or cold?

You can tell the difference between hay fever and a cold by comparing symptoms and their duration.

Hay fever is tied to certain times of the year. It doesn’t cause a fever, as the name suggests, or a sore throat, like a cold can. Itchy eyes associated with hay fever do not occur with a cold.

Colds generally last two to 10 days, while hay fever can drag on for weeks.

Long term, hay fever, like a cold, may lead to a sinus or ear infection.

Take aim at hay fever

Nature will stir up a concoction with pollen and weeds that’s impossible to stop, but you can take steps to reduce the effects the irritants can have on you.

Outdoor precautions

When going outside during hay fever season:

  • Stay inside if the pollen count is high.
  • Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat to keep pollen out of your eyes.
  • Wear a pollen mask while doing yard work or gardening and take allergy medication before starting to work.

Household hacks

To keep the outdoors from entering your home:

  • Clean floors with a damp rag or mop. Sweeping or dry dusting can spread irritants.
  • Don’t open windows or use fans to blow air inside the house from the outside.
  • Don’t hang clothes or sheets on the line during high pollen count days.
  • Run the AC so it can filter the air.
  • Use an air cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter.

Medications

Several medication options and combinations can be used to fight hay fever. Talk to your doctor to find out what will work best for you.

Medications for hay fever include:

  • Nasal corticosteroids: This class of drugs is the most effective way to treat allergic rhinitis. They reduce many symptoms ­– sneezing, itching and a runny nose – with few side effects.
  • Antihistamines: These medications fight off histamines that cause the allergic reaction. They can be taken orally or as a nasal spray. Some require a prescription, and some are over the counter. Newer (second generation) antihistamines work well with fewer side effects, such as drowsiness.
  • Decongestants: Decongestants help with runny noses. They narrow blood vessels, which, in turn, decreases the amount of mucus that leaks out into the lining of your nose. They come in oral form or nasal spray. Nose spray should be taken short-term.
  • Leukotriene pathway inhibitors: These medications, such as Singulair, block the action of leukotriene, a substance in the body that can also cause symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

Immunotherapy

When medications aren’t giving a patient relief, doctors suggest immunotherapy, otherwise known as allergy shots. By gradually increasing doses of the allergen for a patient, the immune system becomes less sensitive to it over time.

With these steps, you’re sure to find a way to enjoy the change of seasons without nature spoiling your plans.