Allergies Hayfever Seasonal Cycles

If exposure to pollen, weeds, flowers, trees, mold or pet dander turns you into a sneezing, coughing, eye-watering mess, then you probably suffer from hay fever. Also known as allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a cold-like reaction to common allergens in the air.

While some unlucky people suffer through year-round hay fever (often triggered by dust or pet dander), most people get hay fever at certain times of the year.

Hay Fever Symptoms

Symptoms of hay fever usually begin immediately after contact with an allergen. They include sneezing, watery eyes, itching, coughing, congestion and wheezing. Symptoms generally don’t clear up on their own — they remain until either the affected person seeks treatment or the allergen is removed.

Hay fever is actually caused by our bodies’ reaction to contact with allergens. While the allergen itself isn’t harmful, our immune system attacks it as though it is. The body releases chemicals known as histamines to fight off the invaders, and these histamines are what cause us to sneeze and cough.

Hay Fever Treatments

Hay fever is easily treatable. The best way to prevent hay fever is to avoid pollen and other allergens altogether, but that’s not always practical. If your hay fever does flare, a variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications exist to reduce symptoms. Decongestants, nasal sprays and antihistamines (which block the release of histamines in our bloodstream) are among the most popular.

In addition, a variety of home remedies are available for treating hay fever symptoms. Certain fruits, such as grapefruit, lemon and unpeeled apples, are believed to prevent hay fever. Orange and dark green vegetables also offer some level of protection against hay fever, such as:

  • apricots
  • butternut squash
  • kale
  • spinach
  • sweet potatoes.

Drinking green tea may also help stave off hay fever.

Seasonal Triggers for Hay Fever

Hay fever can be either seasonal (occurs only at certain times of the year) or perennial (occurs year-round). Hay fever seasonal cycles are primarily caused by pollen from trees and grass, although weeds and mold spores sometimes contribute, too. The amount of pollen in the air increases at certain times of the year and specific times of day.

Seasonal hay fever usually strikes in the spring, summer and early fall. Hay fever season typically lasts from April to October, although not everyone experiences symptoms for that entire duration. People who are sensitive to tree pollen can start experiencing symptoms as early as March. Grasses don’t release their pollen until mid-June, so people who are allergic to grass pollen won’t have symptoms until summer. People who are sensitive to weeds and shrubs get hay fever in late summer.

If you suffer from seasonal cycles of hay fever, you can take steps to prevent your symptoms from flaring. Stay inside when pollen count is high. Run your air conditioner rather than opening your windows. Pollen count is especially high in the mornings, so try to limit your outdoor activity before 10:00 a.m. in the spring and summer. When you get home at night, shower and wash your hair before you go to bed. This will keep you from getting pollen in your sheets and on your pillow, so you won’t inhale it at night.

Resources

ArticlesBase (2008). Break the cycle of hay fever. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from the ArticlesBase Web site http://www.articlesbase.com/diseases-and-conditions-articles/break-the-cycle-of-hay-fever-561191.html.

Free Health Encyclopedia (2007). Hay fever. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from the Free Health Encyclopedia Web site http://www.faqs.org/health/Sick-V2/Hay-Fever.html.

Live Well (2008). The facts about hay fever. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from the Live Well Web site: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/hayfever/Pages/Allabouthayfever.aspx.