Hayfever Allergy and Asthma
Hay fever is a chronic condition characterised by
sneezing, nasal congestion, runny and itching nose, palate, ears and eyes.
If you recognise any of these symptoms chances are, you or some member of
your family has experienced hay fever at one time or another.
Doctors call it allergic rhinitis. Most people know it as hay fever and if
you've got it - - as 5 million UK citizens do - - you're likely to be
plagued during the spring and autumn seasons by such annoying symptoms as
sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itchy throat and red, watery eyes.
Different names for allergy
Allergy has different names. Allergy reactions
occurring in the nose and sinus are called 'sinus' or 'hay fever' or
'allergic rhinitis.' And when allergy reactions occur in the chest we call
Allergy reactions in the skin are named 'hives' or 'angioedema.' So you
see, allergy has different names depending upon where in your body it
One out of every six UK citizens suffers from an allergic condition.
Allergy is an inherited trait, a genetic susceptibility towards the
production of certain allergy anti-bodies.
Hay fever is basically an allergic reaction to pollens from trees, weed
and grasses. Unlike garden flower pollen, which is carried by insects, the
dry lightweight pollens which cause allergic rhinitis are generally spread
by wind currents which make them difficult to avoid.
In fact, samples of ragweed pollen have been found 400 miles at sea! While
most people suffer mild discomfort with hay fever, it is estimated that
more than 40 percent of the 2.8 million children who have respiratory
allergies miss some school, stay in bed or feel upset by the condition.
Additionally, complications from allergic rhinitis can be serious. The
same allergens that cause hay fever can reach the lungs causing asthma and
Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus cavities) and nasal polyps (small
outgrowths of the mucous membrane of the nose) may develop. Secondary
infections of the ear, larynx and bronchial tubes may occur.
Also, prolonged year-round nasal stuffiness and mouth breathing may lead
to facial bone growth changes in children.
Surprisingly, many parents realise that their children have asthma before
their physicians do. An accurate diagnosis, however, is most important in
helping to determine an appropriate individualised treatment program.
Physicians specialising in allergy/immunology have special skills in the
area of asthma management. The allergy and asthma specialist will detect
and determine those environmental elements (pollens, moulds, dust mites,
animal danders, workplace chemicals) which may be the cause of a patient's
A careful medical history, physical examination, selective allergy skill
testing and lung function studies are typically performed. Occasionally,
blood tests, home and workplace evaluations, and x-rays of the sinuses and
lungs are required.
Unlike hay fever, asthma is a more complex disease involving a reversible
constriction of the muscles lining the human airways. It is more often
associated with allergy immune cells and can get progressively worse
reaching life-threatening stages if not properly controlled. It can be
treated more effectively when it is diagnosed early.
The best therapy of all, however, is avoidance of those things which
produce asthma symptoms. This includes allergens, such as house dust
mites, pets and irritants, such as tobacco smoke and chemical fumes.
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