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What Causes Hay Fever?

Most likely someone you know (hope it is not you) has allergies. These puffy, watery eyes, red stuffy nose every time in the seasons are hard to forget. If you suffer from hay fever – you know what it is all about. This tiresome condition is called “allergic rhinitis” or "seasonal allergic rhinitis", an inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nasal passages, which causes swelling, sneezing, itching, irritation and a runny nose.

What causes hay fever? Why each spring, summer, and fall millions of people at homes, street or in their work places suffer from this kind of allergy?

In fact, any substance can cause an allergy, if it is exposed to a person in the right way. But the most common cause is PROTEINS. If an allergic person comes in contact with protein from plants several times, it will eventually cause allergic rhinitis.

Trees, grasses, and weeds produce extremely small, light, dry protein particles called pollen. It is usually the male sex cells of the plant. It is too small to be visible (less than 40 microns in diameter), but is a very strong allergy stimulator. These small pollen particles are spread by the wind and lodge in the nasal lining tissues where they trigger an allergy. The reaction of an allergic person is actually a defense of the immune system that tries to fight a harmful substance off and protect the body.

Pollen is small particles released by flowering plants, it is a grain used to transport the male DNA to the female part of the flower. Among all types of pollen the most common allergen is grass pollen. Other common allergens are tree pollens (such as hazel, birch, alder, and willow) and weed pollen (among them are mugwort, ragweed and docks). Very often a person with hay fever is allergic to several of these allergens. Or just may be allergic to one type of pollen. It is more likely to be grass pollen allergy if one suffers from hay fever more in the summer; if it happens more in early spring – it is more like tree pollen allergy. Ragweed is a common cause of pollen allergy reactions in the fall. You can suffer from hay fever even in winter, as in mild climates some plants pollinate in the winter as well.

The other common allergens in hay fever are molds. Molds are a type of fungus that has no stems, roots, or leaves. They just float through the air like pollen and “look for” a hospitable environment to grow. The bad news about mold spores is that they do not have a season. Molds are in the air throughout the year, and grow both outdoors and indoors. Outdoors it is present in soil, vegetation, and rotting wood; indoors – in basements, moist places (bathrooms), and places where foods are stored, prepared, or discarded.

These allergens can trigger a hay fever. You are more likely to have the condition if you have:

·   other allergic conditions such as eczema or asthma

·   some family member with hay fever

·   nasal polyps (small noncancerous growths in the lining of the nose)

·   if you are exposed to the allergen too often

In women suffering from hay fever while they are pregnant changes of body can worsen the symptoms of an allergy.

You can get tested to find out the allergen that triggers your hay fever. A doctor will use a skin test to see if you will react to specific allergens, this is the most common method used to test for allergic reactions. Blood test is another option to determine if you have a pollen allergy.

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Nevertheless you can not get rid of the allergy – you absolutely can make it milder. What you can do about pollen allergy is to know time of day and weather conditions when your hay fever may be worsen. People tend to suffer more when outdoors, not at homes. On hot windy days the levels of pollen is the highest. Pollen is also most abundant in the early morning (between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.). The best weather for hay fever’s sufferers is damp weather. Rain can wash pollen out of the air for a time, and some plants may not even pollinate in such weather. It is also interesting to know that you will suffer from hay fever less, as you grow older.

 Valentyna Ant.

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