Allergies Hayfever Pollen Mold Spores

Despite its name, hay fever has nothing to do with hay and doesn’t cause a fever. Also known as allergic rhinitis, Hay fever an allergy to substances including:

  • cockroaches
  • dander from pets
  • dust mites
  • mold spores
  • pollen.

Pollen and mold spores are two of the most common hay fever triggers.

Symptoms of Hay Fever

Hay fever symptoms vary from person to person, and often mimic a cold or other respiratory infection, although no germs or viruses are involved. Some people have seasonal hay fever symptoms, and others suffer all year round. Here are a few common symptoms of hay fever:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • itchy eyes, nose and throat
  • poor sleep
  • sneezing
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • swelling and bluish skin under eyes.

In some people, allergens also trigger asthma.

Understanding Allergic Reactions

Hay fever is related to other allergic conditions such as asthma, eczema and food allergies. Allergies tend to run in families. Allergic reactions are caused by atopy, which means that the body produces the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE) when exposed to an allergen such as pollen or mold spores. This happens because the body has made the mistake of thinking that the allergen is a harmful foreign invader, and is trying to fight it off. The presence of IgE in the body causes the release of histamine, which in turn triggers hay fever symptoms.

Pollen and Allergies

Pollen is one of the most common seasonal hay fever triggers. Airborne pollen needed for plants to reproduce is easily inhaled as plants bloom. Some types of pollen include:

  • grass pollen (common when the grass is at its most lush and green, usually in the late spring and summer)
  • tree pollen (high when the trees are in bloom, usually in the spring)
  • weed pollen (highest in the fall).

Mold Spores and Allergies

Mold is another significant cause of hay fever. Molds are plants in the fungus family. They are multi-celled organisms that grow into branching threads called hyphae. Molds produce seeds, or spores, in order to reproduce. Each spore creates new mold growth, which can produce millions of new spores. Microscopic mold spores and tiny fungus fragments are easily inhaled and can trigger an allergic reaction.

Molds can grow anywhere there is moisture and oxygen, plus a few other chemicals they need to survive. Outdoors, molds are often found on fallen leaves or rotting logs. Some molds can grow on grains we eat such as barley, corn, oats or wheat.

Mold thrives wherever it is damp, often triggering hay fever indoors. Some common places you can find mold indoors are:

  • air conditioners and humidifiers
  • basements
  • bathrooms
  • foam rubber pillows
  • fresh food storage areas
  • garbage pails
  • house plants
  • humidifiers
  • soft furniture.

Relieving Hay Fever Symptoms

Many remedies are available to relieve hay fever symptoms. You may get relief from over-the-counter medicines, or you can see your doctor for a prescription if you need something stronger. Some common hay fever treatments include:

  • antihistamines
  • decongestants
  • cromolyn sodium
  • immunotherapy (allergy shots)
  • leukotriene modifiers
  • nasal atropine
  • nasal corticosteroids
  • oral corticosteroids.

Rinsing your nasal passages with warm saline solution can also be very effective for relieving congestion.

Avoiding Hay Fever Triggers

You can also relieve your symptoms by reducing your exposure to the pollen and mold spores that trigger your allergic reactions. Here are a few tips for avoiding pollen and mold spores:

  • Don’t hang your laundry outdoors, as pollen can stick to it.
  • During high pollen seasons, close doors and windows.
  • Choose the highest quality filter for your ventilation system.
  • Install a HEPA filter in your bedroom.
  • Keep humidity low with a dehumidifier.
  • Remain inside on dry, windy days.
  • Run the air conditioners in your car and home to filter out allergens.
  • Try to avoid mowing the lawn and raking leaves.

Resources

Bupa. (2007). Hay fever. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from the Bupa.co.uk Web site http://hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/html/allergicrhinitis.html.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2008). Hay fever. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from the Mayo Clinic Web site http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hay-fever/DS00174.

Medical College of Wisconsin. (2008). Mold allergies. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from the Healthlink Web site http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/926104064.html.