About 35 million Americans have hay fever. How do you know if you’re one of them?
First, you need to know what it is -- and isn’t. Hay fever is the common term for seasonal allergies. Your doctor will call it seasonal allergic rhinitis. What sets it off? Pollen that certain grasses, weeds, or trees release into the air in spring, summer, and fall.
Your doctor will know if you have hay fever based on your symptoms and a physical exam. If he needs more proof, he’ll use skin and blood tests to see how your body reacts to certain substances.
During a skin test the doctor will prick your back or arm with tiny tubes that contain common allergens. If you’re allergic to any of them, your skin will get red, itchy, or swollen at the test site.
Blood tests show if your body makes blood proteins called antibodies in response to allergy triggers. When an allergen binds to antibodies located in your nose, eyes, and mouth, your body releases chemicals that cause your symptoms.
How Is It Treated?
Start with prevention. If you have seasonal allergies, limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high. Nasal irrigation and saline sprays can help remove allergen particles from your nose. Saline sprays are available over-the-counter, or you can make your own. Use salt and boiled, sterile, or distilled water, but not tap water. Pour or spray into your nose with a neti pot, nasal syringe, or squeeze bottle.
If your symptoms don’t go away, certain over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications work well. If you have a severe allergy you might try immunotherapy, a long-term process that lowers your response.