20. Don’t Let Hay Fever Ruin Your Life

Despite its name, hay fever has nothing to do with hay or fever. A nineteenth-century physician coined the term because he began to sneeze every time he entered a hay barn. Hay fever is a reaction of the upper respiratory track to anything to which you may be allergic The medical term for hay fever is allergic rhinitis. Symptoms include watery eyes, runny nose, congestion, and sneezing. Although hay fever is most common in spring and fall, some people suffer all year. The best way to control this problem is to minimize exposure to things you are allergic to. Here are a few tips.

  1. Keep windows and doors shut and stay inside when the pollen count or humidity is high. (Early morning is particularly bothersome for some.)

  2. Delegate outdoor chores. Mowing the lawn or raking leaves is a potential disaster if you’re allergic to the pollen of grains, trees, or weeds (especially ragweed), or to molds.

  3. Use air conditioning or air purifiers for added relief, particularly in your bedroom. (Be sure to clean the units.)

  4. Keep your surroundings as free of dust, mold, or pollen as possible. Of the three, dust is hardest to avoid – it’s everywhere. So:

  5. -Dust and vacuum your home often.

  6. -Use rugs that can be washed often. Don’t use carpeting.

  7. -Try not to have stuffed animals kept in the bedroom. If you must, have only one. Make sure it can be washed. Wash it in hot water once a week.

  8. -Don’t have pets. If you have a pet, keep it outside of the bedroom. When you can, keep the pet outdoors.

  9. -Don’t hang sheets and blankets outside to dry. (Pollen can collect on them.)

If avoiding hay fever triggers gives you little or no relief, consider trying antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, or eye drops.

  1. Antihistamines block the release of histamine, a substance the body automatically produces in response to an allergen.

  2. Histamine is responsible for many allergic symptoms. For best results, take the antihistamine 30 minutes before going outside. (Note: Follow the directions on the labels of over-the-counter antihistamines.)

  3. Decongestants reduce nasal blockage by narrowing blood vessels. (Don’t use a nasal spray for more than three days at a time – you may become dependent on it.)

Your doctor may prescribe medications. Examples are cromolyn sodium, a nasal spray, eyedrops, corticosteroids, etc. Your doctor may also recommend skin tests to find out which allergens bother you and allergy shots, if necessary.

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems