Allergies and Hay Fever
Each spring, summer, and fall, trees, weeds, and grasses release tiny pollen grains into the air. Some of the pollen ends up in the nose and throat. This can trigger a type of allergy called hay fever.
Symptoms can include:
- Sneezing and congestion are the most common symptoms.
- Coughing and post-nasal drip.
- Itching eyes, nose, and throat.
- Dark circles under the eyes.
Scientists think both genetics and the environment play a role in triggering an allergic reaction. Normally, the immune system fights germs; it is the body's defense system. In most allergic reactions, however, it is responding to a false alarm.
Many patients with allergies have typical symptoms and a clear history that makes the diagnosis readily apparent. Sometimes blood tests or skin tests are helpful to confirm allergy or lead to testing for other causes of symptoms.
Managing the symptoms is the most common way of treating allergies and hay fever. Approaches to symptom management include: avoidance, medication, and/or immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots).
Avoidance includes: staying indoors during peak pollen season, keeping an indoor environment allergy free by cleaning, avoiding having indoor plants that can harbor mold, washing bed sheets weekly, and removing things that harbor dust like drapes and excess pillows.
Nasal steroid sprays and oral antihistamines are the most commonly used medications. Topical antihistimines, leukotriene inhibitors (leukotrienes are molecules that trigger inflammation and allergic reactions), and decongestants may also help relieve some symptoms.
Immunotherapy or Allergy Shots
A consultation with one of our otolaryngic allergists (ear, nose, throat, head, and neck allergist) will help determine if a patient is a candidate for immunotherapy, otherwise known as an allergy shot. This form of treatment is usually only administered after avoidance and medications have failed to effectively manage the symptoms.
You might find these resources helpful:
- Medlineplus.gov - allergy page