Sneezing that is repeated and prolonged is the most common mark of the hay fever sufferer. A stuffy and watery nose is also a main sign of hay fever. Other symptoms include redness, swelling and itching of the eyes; itching of the nose, throat and mouth and itching of the ears, or other ear problems. Breathing difficulties at night due to obstruction of the nose may interfere with sleep.
These symptoms differ in degree according to the individual, ranging from mild to severe. When severe, they are very uncomfortable, make it difficult to carry out daily tasks, and may cause loss of time from work and school.
Health complications from repeated hay fever attacks, year after year, may be an even more serious problem. Chronic sinusitis -- inflammation of the sinus cavities -- is one of these problems. Another is nasal polyps, or growths. In addition, a significant percentage of people with hay fever have or develop asthma.
THE SEASONS FOR HAY FEVER
The "hay fever season" can be a different time of year for different people. In part, this is because trees, grasses, and weeds produce pollens during different seasons. People who are sensitive to pollens produced by grasses may suffer in the late spring, and early summer, the time when most grasses are pollinating. About half of all hay fever sufferers are sensitive to grass pollens.
Mold and fungus spores ("seeds"), also airborne during the summer months, cause reactions in many people. Frequently found around hay, straw, and dead leaves, their growth is encouraged by humid weather and by places with poor air circulation--damp basements for instance.
HOW TO CONTROL HAY FEVER
Avoiding the substance that causes a reaction is the best way to control hay fever. Moving to a different part of the country is sometimes suggested, but taking this drastic and expensive step may prove useless if the person has or develops sensitivity to a substance common in the new location.
Using air conditioning and air purifying devices may help cut down on suffering during the hay fever season, so that normal sleep and work are possible. Dust masks should be used during outdoor work if the work cannot be avoided.
Antihistamines - drugs that counteract the histamine released by the allergen-antibody reaction - usually serve to give relief from some symptoms. Decongestants may help, as well. However, they don`t affect the underlying sensitivity. Each individual has to depend on his or her doctor to find out what drug or combination of drugs works best.
Over-the-counter nose sprays are usually of limited value and their prolonged use may actually cause symptoms or make them worse. Inhaled steroids are often effective and may be prescribed by a doctor.