Reaching for Tissues? It Could Be Hay Fever
If your eyes are watery and you’ve been sneezing lately, you just might have hay fever. Here are the possible causes and ways to find relief.
You're sneezing and coughing. And your eyes are watery, red, and itchy. Then there's that runny, stuffy nose. Maybe you remember having the same miserable symptoms last year when the seasons changed.
You may have seasonal allergies—or what's commonly called hay fever.
Pollen could be your problem
If you do have hay fever, it doesn't necessarily mean you're allergic to hay. The culprit could just as easily be a tree. That's because a variety of airborne pollens can set off allergy symptoms, depending on your location and the time of year. And one thing you'll notice is that those symptoms arrive with the seasons.
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, hay fever is often triggered by:
- Tree pollen in early spring
- Grasses during late spring and early summer
- Weeds in late summer and fall
Pollen is usually harmless. But if you have hay fever, your immune system mistakes pollen for an invader, triggering the release of chemicals (such as histamine) that lead to those uncomfortable symptoms. Finding relief If you think you might have allergies, tell your doctor. You may need a skin test or blood test to learn what you're allergic to. Then your doctor can recommend a treatment plan, which may include:
- Avoiding your allergy triggers. Try to spend less time outdoors when pollen counts are high. You can find pollen counts online or get them through apps on your smartphone.
- Taking over-the-counter or prescription medicines. Options include nasal steroid sprays and antihistamine pills. These medications generally work best when you start them just before allergy season begins.
What about allergy shots?
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) might be another option. It takes time, but the shots can build up your body's resistance to specific hay fever triggers. Many people who get allergy shots see their symptoms improve or even disappear.*
*Insurance plans don’t always cover this treatment. Check with your health plan to verify coverage for allergy testing, treatment, and serum. Depending on your plan, these services are covered differently.
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