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Health Services

Hay Fever Strikes Again!

EphNotes

With the beginning of fall comes the onset of allergies, or hay fever. About 25% of all Americans suffer from the congested reaction to increased pollen count, and once it comes it’s usually there to stay.

The Facts

  • In response to an influx of pollen proteins (also known as antigens or allergens) to the system, the body produces antibodies.
  • The result of the reaction between the antigens and the antibodies is a chemical called histamine.
  • Histamine is what causes the itching, sneezing, congestion, swelling, and redness usually associated with hay fever.

The Plan

  • Minimize exposure to pollen and other allergens — if it’s necessary to be outside, it’s best to keep in mind that pollen counts are highest in the early morning and during windy times, and lowest during dusk and after rains.
  • Medicate! These medications can help ease some of the discomfort when it’s necessary to be in areas with high pollen counts:
    • Over-the-counter antihistamines can block some of the histamine reaction, helping to reduce some of the uncomfortable symptoms.
    • Decongestants can reduce swelling in the nasal passages.
    • Sprays also reduce nasal passage swelling, but can result in chronic congestion and even loss of smell if used for more than 3 days.
  • Immunotherapy can be a last resort when more common medications fail to sufficiently alleviate the pain. The concept is to inject a body with a foreign protein that will induce the production of antibodies that make one less sensitive to a particular allergen (e.g., pollen). Sadly, this both takes a few months to become effective, and doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Find out what works best for you. Allergies are different for each person, and so there’s no one cure that is guaranteed to work for everyone. Figure out what combination of tactics is most effective for your own unique set of allergies.

Please feel free to stop by the Health Center with other questions about allergies.

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