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Health Condition

Hay Fever

About This Condition

Hay fever is an allergic condition triggered by the immune system’s response to inhalant substances (frequently pollens).

Researchers have yet to clearly understand why some people’s immune systems over-react to exposure to pollens while other people do not suffer from this problem. Symptoms of hay fever are partly a result of inflammation that, in turn, is activated by the immune system.

Symptoms

Inhaled allergens trigger sneezing and inflammation of the nose and mucous membranes (conjunctiva) of the eyes. The nose, roof of the mouth, eyes, and throat begin to itch gradually or abruptly after the onset of the pollen season. Tearing, sneezing, and clear, watery nasal discharge soon follow the itching. Headaches and irritability may also occur.

Reducing Your Risk

To help keep you in top health, our experts recommend these steps:

  • Eat the inflammation away. Diet isn’t proven to prevent hay fever. However, a key feature of this condition is excess inflammation, so making anti-inflammatory foods the base of your diet may bolster defenses. Dine on nuts and seeds, fresh, colorful vegetables and fruits, and cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, and cod. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
  • Go fish. Omega-3 fats, found in cold-water fish can dampen inflammation. However, if you don’t regularly enjoy fish, a fish oil supplement may fill in the omega-3 gaps. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
  • Know your woes. It’s easy to mistake the early phases of a cold for allergies, so be sure you know what you’re dealing with before taking anti-allergy medications. Select Medicines, above, for more information.
  • Control your environment. Healthy living products, such as an air purifier to lessen allergy triggers in your home, may help you feel like you don’t even have hay fever! Select Personal Care, above, for more information.

Living With It

Our experts recommend the following tips for taming the sniffles, sneezes, and wheezes of hay fever:

  • Reduce allergens. People with inhalant allergies also may have food allergies, and these may worsen hay fever. Consider working with a knowledgeable health care provider to identify and eliminate potential food allergens from your diet. Select Eating Right, above, for more information.
  • Butter it up. Supplements made from the plant butterbur are proven effective at reducing hay fever symptoms. Ask your healthcare provider if this product may be right for you. Select Vitamins, above, for more information.
  • Medicate for prevention. Many allergy medications work best when taken continuously, to keep hay fever symptoms from ever appearing in the first place. Read labels and take medications as recommended for best effect. Select About, and Medicines, above, for more information.
  • Just add water. For both kids and adults, humidifiers and vaporizers in the bedroom at night can soothe dry, clogged sinuses, and ease hay fever symptoms. Select Personal Care, above, for more information.

References

1. Schapowal A, Petasites Study Group. Randomised controlled trial of butterbur and cetirizine for treating seasonal allergic rhinitis. BMJ 2002;324:144-6.

2. Lee DK, Gray RD, Robb FM, et al. A placebo-controlled evaluation of butterbur and fexofenadine on objective and subjective outcomes in perennial allergic rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy 2004;34:646-9.

3. Yu YJ. Effect of tian-huang-ling granule in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1989;9:720-1, 708 [in Chinese].

4. Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., 2003.

5. Schapowal A; Petasites Study Group. Butterbur Ze339 for the treatment of intermittent allergic rhinitis: dose-dependent efficacy in a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 2004;130:1381-6.

6. Badar VA, Thawani VR, Wakode PT, et al. Efficacy of Tinospora cordifolia in allergic rhinitis. J Ethnopharmacol 2005;96:445-9.

7. Yu YJ. Effect of tian-huang-ling granule in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1989;9:720-1, 708 [in Chinese].

8. Chen JK, Chen TT. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. City of Industry, CA: Art of Medicine Press, Inc., 2003.

9. Xiao JZ, Kondo S, Yanagisawa N, et al. Probiotics in the treatment of Japanese cedar pollinosis: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Clin Exp Allergy 2006;36:1425-35.

10. Cazzola P, Mazzanti P, Bossi G. In vivo modulating effect of a calf thymus acid lysate on human T lymphocyte subsets and CD4+/CD8+ ratio in the course of different diseases. Curr Ther Res 1987;42:1011-7.

11. Kouttab NM, Prada M, Cazzola P. Thymomodulin: Biological properties and clinical applications. Med Oncol Tumor Pharmacother 1989;6:5-9 [review].

12. Marzari R, Mazzanti P, Cazzola P, Pirodda E. Perennial allergic rhinitis: prevention of the acute episodes with Thymomodulin. Minerva Med 1987;78:1675-81.

13. Xiao JZ, Kondo S, Yanagisawa N, et al. Probiotics in the treatment of Japanese cedar pollinosis: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Clin Exp Allergy 2006;36:1425-35.

14. Mittman P. Randomized double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica diocia in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med 1990;56:44-7.

15. Balabolkin II, Gordeeva GF, Fuseva ED, et al. Use of vitamins in allergic illnesses in children. Vopr Med Khim 1992;38:36-40.

16. Baba S, Takasaka T. Double-blind clinical trial of sho-seiryu-to (TJ-19) for perennial nasal allergy. Clin Otolaryngol 1995;88:389-405.

17. Gopalakrishnan C, Shankaranarayan D, Nazimudeen SK, et al. Effect of tylophorine, a major alkaloid of Tylophora indica, on immunopathological and inflammatory reactions. Ind J Med Res 1980;71:940-8.

18. Holmes HM, Alexander W. Hay fever and vitamin C. Science 1942;96:497.

19. Ruskin SL. High dose vitamin C in allergy. Am J Dig Dis 1945;12:281.

20. Fortner BR Jr, Danziger RE, Rabinowitz PS, Nelson HS. The effect of ascorbic acid on cutaneous and nasal response to histamine and allergen. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1982;69:484-8.

21. Speer F. Multiple food allergy. Ann Allerg 1975;34:71-6.

22. Buczylko K, Kowalczyk J, Zeman K, et al. Allergy to food in children with pollinosis. Rocz Akad Med Bialymst 1995;40:568-72.

23. Ogle KA, Bullock JD. Children with allergic rhinitis and/or bronchial asthma treated with elimination diet. Ann Allergy 1977;39:8-11.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.