Hay fever, which is the common name for allergic rhinitis, can cause many of the same symptoms as the common cold, such as runny nose, cough, sneezing, congestion and sinus difficulty. According to the Mayo Clinic, hay fever is not caused by a virus, but is actually an allergic reaction to outside triggers, such as pollen or dust mites. It affects one in five people. When an allergy sufferer encounters one of these common substances, it sets off a hyperactive immune response. A normal immune system would not find these substances harmful. There are several different approaches for treating hay fever symptoms.
When the body encounters an allergy trigger and begins the immune response, it releases histamine, which is a chemical mediator responsible for the effects of the immune response. It causes inflammation and mucous production, and it activates white blood cells. Antihistamine medications can be found over the counter or may be prescribed by a physician. They are not a permanent solution to the allergy and only temporarily block the effects of histamine. Some examples of antihistamine include, Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. According to Allergyscape.com, these medications can have side effects such as sleepiness, headache, nausea, dry mouth and others.
This medication can be delivered orally or through a nasal spray. The nasal form of this medication is considered the most effective treatment for hay fever reactions, according to The National Institutes of Health, and is often the first medication doctors will prescribe. The Mayo Clinic reports that it is possible for corticosteroids to begin working after a few days, but many find that it takes a couple of weeks for the full benefit to be noticed. Examples of the drug include Nasonex, Flonase and Beconase. The drug is safe for children and adults normally, but long term use of the oral form can cause some serious side effects such as osteoporosis, diabetes and muscle weakness.
Nasal decongestants are medications that can be taken as a liquid, pill or nasal spray and help reduce the congestion and drainage associated with hay fever. This drug acts on the blood vessels, narrowing them and reducing swollen tissues. They are available over the counter and by prescription, but according to Familydoctor.org they can cause an increase in blood pressure. Nasal sprays can cause a form of dependence if used for longer periods of time and eventually make symptoms worse.
One way of fighting the symptoms of hay fever is to avoid the substances that trigger attacks. Remaining indoors as much as possible on days when pollen counts are high or when it is especially windy can help reduce symptoms. There are several different brands of air filters for the home and car that can remove triggers from the air you breathe.
About this Author
Dr. Blake Biddulph received his chiropractic degree from Parker College of Chiropractic in Dallas in 2007 and has been practicing as a chiropractic physician in Provo, Utah, ever since. He has a special interest in spinal rehabilitation and treats patients with a variety of neck and back conditions. He has been writing health-related articles and newsletters for several years.