Every year, as soon as the weather becomes warmer and flowers start blooming once again, the sneezing begins. Millions of Americans experience symptoms of allergic rhinitis, a condition more commonly known as hay fever. In most cases, it is seasonal. Symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, watery and itchy eyes, postnasal drip, itchy throat, coughing, and itchy skin appear when there are allergens, especially pollen, in the air. It can happen around spring, summer, and late fall.
The condition is genetic. If your parents have hay fever, you likely have it, too. This has been proven by a study in which researchers found evidence that, if parents experience allergy-related diseases, their offspring are at a higher risk of developing hay fever.
Although unpleasant, hay fever is not usually a cause for concern. It comes and goes with the season. It can be prevented by taking over-the-counter medication or wearing a mask and staying indoors when the pollen count outdoors is high.
However, it should not be ignored, either. Hay fever can develop into more serious problems later on.
One common condition that might arise from hay fever is sinusitis. When your nose is always clogged, it can lead to the inflammation and swelling of the sinuses, which are the hollow spaces underneath your eyes, behind your cheekbones, and in your forehead.
Your sinus makes mucus to keep your nostrils to protect you from irritation caused by allergens, dust, and pollutants. Normally, your sinuses are filled with air. However, when you have allergic rhinitis, your sinus is filled with fluid, creating an environment where germs can survive and grow in numbers.
Around 35 million Americans experience sinusitis each year. Symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, facial pain, loss of smell and taste, coughing, fever, fatigue, dental pain, and bad breath.
Sinusitis can be treated with the use of saline nasal washes to flush the congestion and the germs away. Your doctor may also recommend taking decongestants, but be careful with taking over-the-counter decongestants for more than three days because it can exacerbate the problem. You may also be prescribed antibiotics to kill the germs in your sinus.
Keratoconus is, in most cases, hereditary. However, one factor can cause it, too. When you have hay fever, your eyes become watery and itchy. You tend to rub your eyes for relief which, unfortunately, can damage your cornea and lead to the development of keratoconus.
Keratoconus occurs when the cornea, clear dome surface of the eye, thinks and bulges forward into a conical shape. The progression of the condition is slow and begins when the patient is around 10 to 20 years old. Initially, they may need glasses or contacts to correct their eyesight.
Eventually, when the cornea has bulged forward more prominently, regular contact lenses will no longer suffice. They would need rigid and gas permeable contact lenses.
Keratoconus requires careful corneal cross-linking surgery to slow down and stop. However, when it progresses, the patient will need a cornea transplant.
Hay fever can affect your ears through the eustachian tubes, the small canal that connects your ears to the back of your throat.
When the eustachian tube is blocked, which can happen when you have hay fever as well as the common cold or a sinus infection, it can become swollen and infected. The symptoms of ear infection include ear pain, drainage of fluid from the ear, headaches, and difficulty hearing.
Your eustachian tubes are responsible for regulating air pressure within your middle ear. If an infection is not addressed immediately, it can cause hearing impairment. If it is mild, the loss of hearing will be temporary. However, more serious cases may leave permanent hearing loss. An ear infection may also tear your eardrums which may need surgery to repair.
Your doctor might prescribe medication and anesthetic drops to manage pain, a common symptom of ear infection. In addition, you will also have to take antibiotics to clear the infection.
The occurrence of hay fever can also exacerbate existing respiratory conditions, including asthma. It is harder for patients to manage and control their asthma if they frequently experience allergic rhinitis. The symptoms that come with allergic rhinitis will worsen coughing and wheezing, both of which are signs of asthma. By addressing hay fever, patients can breathe better and keep asthma at bay
Because hay fever is genetic, there is no way to avoid it. You can only minimize its symptoms and impact on your overall health by avoiding pollen, seeing your doctor, and taking medication as directed.