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Hay Fever: Symptoms, Causes
and Treatment

A more accurate name for hay fever is seasonal allergic rhinitis, an allergic reaction to airborne substances such as pollen that get into the upper respiratory passages – the nose, sinus, throat – and also the eyes.

Hay fever is the most common of all the allergic diseases. About 15 percent of the population in industrialised countries suffer from this condition. Symptoms usually appear in childhood first and then lessen by the age of 30 or 40.


  • Itching and sneezing: The most important function of the nose is to filter air and protect the lungs. Itching and sneezing result from the effects of histamine released into tissue in the nose during an attack.

  • Runny nose: Nostrils are kept clear by the secretion of mucus. When you have an allergic reaction to pollen, your nose can secrete up to an egg-cupful of clear, watery fluid every hour.

  • Stuffy, blocked nose: This is the result of swelling of the nasal tissue, caused by the release of histamine following the interaction with pollen.

  • Sinusitis: Sinuses are air-filled cavities in the bones of the skull which open into the nasal cavity. When tissue in the nose swells, it obstructs openings and bacteria trapped in the sinuses can multiply. This causes a painful infection called sinusitis.

  • Itchy, watery eyes: Pollen react with the membrane covering the eyes and eyelids. The membrane becomes itchy and inflamed, making the eyes look red. The eyes produce more tears to wash out the offending substance.
What Triggers Hay Fever?

What Triggers Hay Fever?

  • Grass
  • Pollen
  • Mould
  • Pet hair
  • Dust mites

Some hay-fever sufferers are sensitive to aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.


Reduce your exposure to pollen by taking these simple measures:

  • Avoid being outdoors in early evening when pollen count is highest.
  • Sleep with bedroom windows closed to avoid pollen from coming in.
  • Wear sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
  • Holiday at coastal areas.
  • Shower and wash your hair to get rid of pollen.

Effective Medicine

  • Decongestions, e.g. Sinutab
  • Antihistamines, e.g. Zirtec, Telfast
  • Cortosteroids, available on prescription in pill and nasal sprays
  • Hyposensitisation. Purified grass pollen is injected under the skin for a period of 2-3 years. This reduces sensitivity. It is very effective, but can cause severe reactions like anaphylactic shock (severe allergic reactions that can cause death).

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