Category Archives: Allergies – Basics

Everything You Should Know About Hay Fever

Everything You Should Know About Hay Fever

In the article below, you will find all the necessary information about allergic
rhinitis, also known as hay fever, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and
treatment options.

Definition of Hay Fever

Allergic rhinitis, otherwise known as hay fever, is the most common chronic disease, as well as
the major reason for chronic sinus and nasal problems. Hay fever affects up to one third of the
population.

The groups of population most affected by the disease include children and young people.
However, the symptoms of hay fever also often occur in older adults and elderly people.

The Cause of Hay Fever

Hay fever usually occurs as a result of seasonal allergies caused by airborne plant pollens. These
pollens are typically present in the spring or fall seasons.

Pollen is a powdery substance that is released from flowering plants like trees, weeds and
grasses. This substance consists of microscopic grains, typically yellow, that are transported by
the wind or insects and serve for reproductive purposes. Each pollen grain contains a male
gamete (sperm cell).

There are several types of pollen that cause quite significant allergic reactions and lead to hay
fever. Those include grass pollen in summer, ragweed pollen in autumn, as well as mountain
cedar pollen in winter or spring.

Hay Fever Symptoms

Both seasonal and year-round allergens cause inflammation and irritation of the nasal passages,
which in turn triggers hay fever symptoms. These symptoms are sneezing, runny nose, nasal
congestion, itching of the nose, post-nasal drip, dark circles under the eyes, sore throat, trouble
smelling or tasting, and recurrent sinus infections. The symptoms of hay fever don’t necessarily
occur altogether, and one (or several) symptoms may predominate.

Hay Fever Diagnosis

A person can be diagnosed with hay fever, if he reports convincing symptoms, and physical
exams confirm the presence of the disease. However, experts recommend allergy testing to
diagnose hay fever properly.

Hay fever diagnosis requires positive allergy testing. If the testing is negative, a patient rather
has non-allergic rhinitis.

Allergy testing can be done in two ways – with blood tests and skin tests. However, the latter
option is the preferred method, since it tends to be more accurate.

Treating Hay Fever

There are several approaches to the treatment of hay fever. Utilizing two or more of this
approaches at the same time helps to treat the hay fever symptoms most efficiently. Thus, the
ways to treat hay fever are to avoid the allergens, to take medications or through immunotherapy.

Avoiding Allergy Triggers

Sometimes, the best way to prevent a disease is to avoid the causes, which also applies to hay
fever. However, avoiding airborne pollen can be challenging during the plants’ pollination
period. The substance is present in the outdoor air and it can easily get into your home, once you
open a window or door. Certain tips, such as wearing a mask, or staying indoors on windy days,
can help to minimize the pollen exposure.

Taking Allergy Medications

In many cases, to treat hay fever symptoms properly, a person needs to take medications. The
pharmaceutical market today offers various medicines for the treatment of hay fever, and
specific medications are required for individual cases, depending on the factors like the severity
and frequency of the symptoms, the cause and type of the hay fever, the form of medication that
is best suitable for a person, as well as the side effects brought by the medication.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is normally the next recommended option, if the methods of avoidance and
medications are not effective enough to control the symptoms.
Immunotherapy helps to develop immunity to the hay fever trigger(s). This method of treatment
implies taking a number of injections which contain small amounts of allergenic substances. In
most cases, a course of such allergy shots is enough to significantly reduce hay fever symptoms,
or even cure them completely.

The most frequently-used form of anti-allergy immunotherapy nowadays is sublingual therapy,
otherwise known as allergy drops. However, this method has not yet been approved by the Food
and Drug Administration, which is why the traditional form of immunotherapy, allergy shots,
remains more common in the United States.

Hay Fever and Everyday Life

Hay fever can really affect a person’s daily routine, and in order to keep living a normal during
the allergy season, many people take medicines.

Hay fever symptoms can be relieved with the help of a wide variety of medications, from over-
the-counter drugs to prescription medicines, and even alternative options. The only option,
however, that can actually make a person less allergic by changing a person’s immune system’s
reaction to allergens is immunotherapy. Yet, success of the therapy cannot be guaranteed.

Common Summertime Allergy Triggers

Common Summertime Allergy Triggers

Summer is a season when many common allergens become active and different triggers can cause allergic reactions. Below, you will find some kind of an informational guide to allergies occurring during summer.

Summertime Allergies

Percentage of the time people spend outdoors throughout the year is highest in summer. Picnics at the beach, camping, backyard barbeques – all these typical summer activities come with the risk of outdoor allergies that may ruin the whole summer for some people. Summertime allergies may be triggered by various allergens such as summer pollens, stinging and biting insects, hidden food ingredients, or smoke from campfires and barbeques.

Grass Pollen as a Summer Allergy Trigger

In summer, pollen allergies are most commonly caused by grass pollen whose concentration in the air is the highest, compared to other pollens. The symptoms of grass pollen allergy may include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and asthma attacks. Physical contact with grass may also cause hives and itching in some people.

In fact, it is almost impossible to avoid grass pollen exposure or even direct contacts with grass during summertime season. However, there are some tips that help to keep allergy symptoms to a minimum. Thus, it is recommended to use various allergy and asthma medications in order to reduce the symptoms. Another measure is to wear a mask, if the air is full of grass pollen, e.g. after mowing the lawn. Moreover, allergy symptoms like itching can normally be prevented, if you take antihistamine 1-2 hours prior to the grass exposure.

Hidden Allergenic Ingredients in Picnic Foods

Outdoor picnics and barbeques are among the most popular summer activities. However, since food at picnics is often brought by many different people, it can be dangerous and cause an allergic reaction in people prone to food allergies, as it may contain various hidden ingredients. People with food allergies can be exposed to different allergy triggers, including peanut and other nuts, egg, milk, or seafood.

Allergic reactions to food mainly happen right after accidentally eating a specific food. It is strongly recommended for people with food allergies to always be prepared to treat an allergic reaction.

Allergies to Smoke

We are exposed to smoke from various sources more frequently during summer, too, and in most people, smoke exposure leads to non-allergic irritation of the eyes, nose and lungs. However, there are also people who are allergic to smoke.

Exposure to the smoke can cause an allergic reaction, in case you are allergic to the pollen of the tree that was used to produce the wood.

It is important for people with asthma and sensitive eyes and nose to avoid direct exposure to the smoke from campfires and barbeques. In addition, it is advised to always keep asthma rescue medications available, to minimize risks.

Stinging and Biting Insects Causing Allergic Reactions

Summertime is a period when the activity of insects is significantly increased. Stinging insects like bees, wasps and yellow-jackets, as well as biting insects such as mosquitoes can present a real danger to certain people. In most cases, insect bites and stings cause localized pain, itching and swelling. But in some people the symptoms might be more severe: they may experience hives, trouble breathing and even life-threatening reactions like anaphylaxis.

Insect allergies are a type of allergies that can be cured, so if you are suffering from such an allergy, you need to discuss the treatment options with your allergist.

The most effective way to prevent allergic reactions is to avoid contacts with stinging and biting insects as much as possible. Precautionary measures considering insect allergies include:

  • Avoiding brightly coloured clothing, as well as flowery prints;
  • Avoiding perfumes and other scented products that might be attractive for stinging insects;
  • Wearing pants, long-sleeved shirts, close-toed shoes and sock, when spending time outdoors;
  • Checking food and drinks before eating or drinking outdoors, as many stinging insects are attracted to sugary treats;
  • Using mosquito repellents, such as sprays and lotions applied to the skin or citronella candles releasing a mosquito-repelling scent.

Seasonal Allergies: Symptoms, Causes and Avoidance Tactics

Seasonal Allergies: Symptoms, Causes and Avoidance Tactics

Below, you will find the article offering an informational guide to seasonal allergies. The information provided includes symptoms, causes, types of seasonal allergies, as well as the ways to avoid and minimize the risks of experiencing the seasonal allergy symptoms.

A seasonal allergy occurs during some specific part of the year, such as spring or fall, as a reaction to a trigger that is typically present only for this season. This type of allergy is referred to as hay fever or pollen allergy, since it is caused by pollen, such as trees, weeds, and grasses.

There is also another type of allergy – perennial allergy – that is triggered by pet dander or house dust mite. Unlike, pollen allergy, perennial allergy is usually present year-round. In addition, such an allergen as mold can be as seasonal as perennial.

Common Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

There are several symptoms that might indicate seasonal allergy. Those include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itching of the nose, and post-nasal drip. These symptoms do not necessarily come all together, and in many cases, only one symptom dominates. In fact, the difference between seasonal allergies and the common cold is difficult to determine, and sometimes, it can only be done by a specialist.

Pollen as a Seasonal Allergy Trigger

Pollen is a very fine powder consisting of tiny, egg-shaped grains, produced by flowering plants. These grains containing male reproductive cells of the plants are crucial in the plants’ fertilization process. Carried by either wind or insects, pollens cross-pollinate other plants for reproductive purposes. When the air is full of pollen, it causes an allergic reaction by landing in the eyes, nose, lungs, and skin of a person. Symptoms that may occur include allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergies) and allergic asthma.

Unlike insect-spread pollen, wind-carried pollen is a cause of the majority of allergy cases. Those plants that have bright, vibrant flowers, e.g. roses, are pollinated by insects, which means the pollen rarely gets into the air, and therefore, those plants do not normally cause seasonal allergy.

Pollen grains often travels long distances making the pollen level in the air vary from day to day, as well as area to area. The same city or region can have different levels of pollen in different zones. Normally, the pollen level is at its peak from early morning to more or less 10 a.m. It can be hard to avoid pollen, but theoretically, there are certain ways to do that.

Spring Allergies Triggers

Spring allergy normally occurs as soon as trees start pollinating, which, depending on the climate and location, may happen anytime from January to April. Among the trees whose pollen triggers severe allergies, are oak, olive, elm, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, sycamore, maple, cypress, and walnut. Springtime allergy may also be caused by weeds, that in certain parts of the world pollinate in spring.

Summer Allergies Triggers

Allergies in late spring and early summer are typically triggered by the pollen produced by grass. In fact, grass might cause allergic reaction for most of the year, the levels of grass pollen are highest during this period. An allergy caused by grass pollen is called contact urticaria. Its symptoms include itching and hives occurring after a contact with grass.

There are two major categories of grasses – northern, that are common in colder climates, and southern, common for warmer climates. Northern grasses include timothy, rye, orchard, sweet vernal, red top, and blue grasses, while the major grass in the southern grass category if Bermuda grass.

Fall Allergies Triggers

During late summer and early fall period, seasonal allergy is mainly caused by weed pollen. Weeds that can cause allergy include ragweed, sagebrush, pigweed, tumbleweed, and cocklebur. Depending on the location, the pollen of one or some of the weeds listed above may trigger allergic reaction.

Determining Pollens’ Presence in the Air

Usually, pollen is measured and counted, so that the type of pollen could be identified. It is possible to identify the pollen of trees, weeds and grasses. It is also possible to determine the type of trees or weeds. However, the type of grasses is rarely identified, since grasses do not differ visually under a microscope.

Identifying the Type of Pollen That’s Causing Your Allergy

If you think you have a seasonal allergy, you are recommended to visit an allergist. The doctor will help to determine whether you have pollen allergy, as well as the type of pollen causing your allergy. This is done by skin or blood analysis. Allergy testing is beneficial, since it predicts the periods throughout the year when you are most prone to allergy. In addition, you will have to conduct allergy testing, if you are interested in taking allergy shots.

Avoiding Pollen Exposure

Seasonal allergies are more likely to occur, since the exposure to pollen, present in the outdoor air, is almost unavoidable during the peak seasons. Still, there are some recommendations to help you keep your pollen exposure at its minimum level. This can be achieved by keeping windows closed to prevent pollen entering your home; minimizing early morning activity, especially outdoor activity; keeping your car windows closed when moving; avoiding mowing the lawn, as well as the grass that’s been freshly cut; drying clothes in a washing machine to prevent pollen from collecting in laundry if hung outside; staying indoors on the days with reported high pollen levels or on windy days, since the wind causes higher amounts of pollen in the air; and finally, taking a vacation during pollen peak seasons and traveling to a more pollen-free place.

Grass Allergy Symptoms and Treatment

Grass Allergy Symptoms and Treatment
Grass Allergy Symptoms and Treatment

Effective ways to live well with the grass pollen allergy, even if grass is everywhere

Do you experience a skin rash when sitting on a grassy hill? Or does breathing in the fresh air trigger eye itching, a stuffy or runny nose, and a cough? If so, you are allergic to pollen from grass. Breathing in grass pollen or direct skin exposure to grass can give rise to a grass pollen allergy.

Common Symptoms of Grass Allergy

In the late spring and early summer months, grasses start releasing pollen into the air, causing different allergy symptoms in people like:

  • Allergic conjunctivitis (itchy, watery eyes, swollen, bluish skin beneath the eyes)
  • Allergic rhinitis (runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, sinus pressure, nasal congestion)
  • Asthma (cough, labored breathing, wheezing, tight feeling in the chest)
  • Scratchy throat, decreased sense of taste or smell
  • Direct contact with grass may cause allergic reactions such as itching, atopic eczema (called atopic dermatitis), and urticaria (called hives).

How to Diagnose a Grass Allergy?

Grass Allergy

There are hundreds of grasses that trigger allergic reactions. They distinguish two common classes of allergic grass: southern and northern grasses. Southern grasses are common in warmer climates and Bermuda grass is the prominent culprit in this category. Northern grasses are present in colder climates and include such common culprits as sweet vernal, redtop, timothy, orchard, and blue grasses. As pollens of different grasses have similar proteins that cause allergies, you may be allergic to many types of grass or to some of them.

To determine which strains you are allergic to, it is necessary to pass an allergy test. A blood test or a skin prick test is performed by allergists in order to determine the specific allergen that’s causing symptoms in your body. During the skin prick test procedure, the different areas of the skin will be pricked and a small amount of various types of allergens will be inserted. If a red, raised area is developed within 15 to 20 minutes and it looks like a hive, then the test is positive, indicating you’re allergic to these substances.

How is a Food Allergy associated with Grass?

Allergies to grass can trigger oral allergy syndrome (OAS) which is caused by cross reactivity between proteins in grass pollen and fruits and vegetables. If you are allergic to grass pollen, you are more likely prone to having also a fruit pollen syndrome, which is triggered by food allergies to potatoes, tomatoes, celery, melons, and peaches that have proteins similar with those in grass pollen and may be the cause of the itching in your mouth.

Food allergy symptoms don’t occur with cooked or processed foods. The proteins in the fruits and vegetables can be easily destroyed when cooking or processing foods.

How to Treat a Grass Allergy?

If you feel you have a grass allergy or you are prone to having it, speak to your physician or allergist and get tested. The test is the best way to know if you are allergic to pollen or maybe something else trigger your symptoms.

If you really have a grass allergy, there are some effective ways to decrease your exposure to pollen and minimize your symptoms:

Reducing exposure: You can reduce your pollen grass exposure by staying indoors and closing your windows on dry and windy days. Another good way is to shower after being outdoors and to wash off pollen from your skin. Prevent yourself from any gardening or yard work during months of high pollen count. Wear a dust mask during peak seasons.

Prescription medication: Prescription medication can be administered in case of severe allergies. You can also fall back on immunotherapy. It involves introducing small amounts of the allergen, which, over several months, will lessen your reaction to grass.

eye drops

Closeup of optometrist hands putting eye drops in patients eye in clinic

Eye drops: To treat eye watering and itchiness, use eye drops.

OTC meds: Over-the-counter remedies such as nasal saline sprays or rinses may also ease your symptoms, reducing congestion. You are recommended to talk with the doctor before trying any nasal steroid spray, as it may sometimes cause some side effects. If you are prone to having an allergic reaction to grass, you can try to take OTC antihistamines to relieve your grass allergy symptoms very quickly. Itching and hives triggered by direct grass exposure can be treated with oral antihistamines.

Immunotherapy: It can be prescribed as allergy shots (it is also called subcutaneous immunotherapy) or sublingually (tablet underneath the tongue). Sublingual immunotherapy is more convenient and comfortable, but subcutaneous immunotherapy is more effective. Currently, there are three main sublingual tablets, approved by the FDA, for treating allergic rhinitis caused by a grass pollen allergy: Grastek (Timothy grass pollen allergen extract), Oralair (five-grass pollen allergen extract), and Ragwitek (ragweed pollen allergen extract). Allergy shots are recommended in cases when medications are not enough to lessen allergic symptoms. Immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots involves injecting the allergen, gradually increasing its amount over time. These shots modify the response of the immune system to the allergen, minimizing the severity of the allergic reactions.

Skin rash treating: To treat skin rash symptoms caused by the pollen grass allergy, use lotions, ointments, and emollients.

Good news

A grass pollen allergy is common, and you can live well with it by experiencing one or all of the methods mentioned above, by using immunotherapy, OTC or prescription meds as needed. You should see your doctor so you can develop a treatment scheme that works best for you.