What is hay fever?
Hay fever, referred to scientifically as seasonal allergic rhinosinusitis, is a common problem treated by allergy and immunology specialists. Most people with hay fever have allergies. With this disorder, symptoms of itching, sneezing, congestion and drainage occur during the season when certain allergens that a person is allergic to are most prevalent. In the Northern Sacramento Valley area the most common time pollen allergies occur is in the spring when there is heavy tree and grass pollination. There is weed and grass pollen throughout the summer and fall but no tree pollen to speak of, except in higher elevations and in the fall with the Chinese Elm. Individuals with a mold allergy can have symptoms all year long with the highest levels occurring in the fall during harvest time and before the first frost. Because our area rarely freezes for any period of time, there is some pollen and mold even in the winter.
How is hay fever diagnosed?
Hay fever is diagnosed like any other allergy. A good history of when the symptoms occur and a thorough knowledge of the allergen pattern in our area allow your allergy and immunology specialist to make good assumptions as to the culprit(s) involved. Allergy testing can be used to verify the diagnosis and define the exact allergens with certainty. Testing also helps your allergy and immunology specialist predict what the future holds for an allergy sufferer in terms of disease progression and the probability of any other atopic diseases developing, especially asthma and sinus problems.
Allergy is one of the three atopic diseases, which also includes asthma and eczema. They have a strong but not exclusive correlation with one another. This means that the genes that cause each of these medical problems are closely linked and tend to be inherited together. For example, a child who develops eczema early in life is much more likely to have asthma, food allergies and allergic rhinosinusitis. The parents, grandparents and siblings are also more likely to have one or all of these problems at some point in their lives. An adult with allergic rhinosinusitis is more likely to eventually develop asthma and various types of eczema, but not exclusively so.
How is hay fever treated?
Once a diagnosis of hay fever is confirmed, your allergy and immunology specialist can prescribe the best single or combination allergy medication for you. You allergy and immunology specialist may also prescribe immunotherapy to treat your hay fever. Immunotherapy is a natural, drug free, method to reduce or eliminate allergy symptoms and prevent the development of allergic complications such as sinus disease and asthma.
How is hay fever avoided?
The only effective way to avoid hay fever is to know what your allergens are and to avoid them. There are common avoidance measures for many allergens. In the case of pollen allergy, this typically means moving away from the area temporarily during your season or permanently. Armed with the knowledge of exactly what you are allergic to, your allergy and immunology specialist can advise you how best to achieve relief.