Hay Fever Treatment in Bethesda, VA
Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, describes the combined allergic reactions to airborne triggers like pollen and animal dander. There are two types of hay fever: seasonal and perennial; seasonal hay fever occurs in the spring, summer, or early fall, while perennial hay fever occurs year-round.
While hay fever can be bothersome, there are many ways to treat it, such as avoiding allergens or using antihistamine medications. To schedule a consultation with a qualified hay fever doctor in Bethesda, call (703) 215-2795 or contact Dr. Andrew Heyman online.
Causes of Hay Fever
It is not yet known what causes the development of hay fever, but genetic factors are suspected; if your parents have allergies, you are more likely to have hay fever. Other possible risk factors for developing hay fever include:
- Having other allergies
- Having eczema (skin condition characterized by rough, inflamed patches of skin)
- Living or working in an environment that constantly exposes you to allergens
- Exposure to cigarette smoke in early childhood
Hay Fever Triggers
When a person with hay fever is exposed to a substance that trigger an allergic reaction (allergens), their immune system overreacts, releasing substances called histamines that cause hay fever symptoms. There are many different allergens that can cause hay fever symptoms. Common triggers for seasonal rhinitis include:
- Tree pollen (early spring)
- Grass pollen (late spring and summer)
- Ragweed pollen (fall)
- Fungi and mold spores (spring and summer)
Common triggers for perennial hay fever include:
- Dust mites
- Pet dander
Irritants that might make existing symptoms worse (but do not cause symptoms) include:
- Wood smoke
- Air pollution
- Aerosol sprays
- Strong odors
- Changes in temperature or humidity
- Irritating fumes
- Car or diesel exhaust
- Laundry detergents
- Pool chlorine
Symptoms of Hay Fever
The onset of hay fever symptoms depends on when exposure to the allergen occurs. While hay fever symptoms can appear very similar to cold symptoms, colds tend to have a shorter duration, do not present itchy, watering eyes, and oftentimes present themselves with fever (despite the name, hay fever does not cause a fever).
Hay fever symptoms include:
- Violent or prolonged sneezing
- Itchy or painful nose, throat, and roof of mouth
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Post-nasal drip that causes coughing
- Watery, itchy, or puffy eyes
- Head and nasal congestion
- Sensation of pressure in the ears
- Malaise (general feeling of weakness or discomfort)
Hay fever symptoms can be complicated by other medical conditions, such as a deviated septum (sideways displacement of the wall between the nostrils). Untreated hay fever can also lead to more severe symptoms such as:
- Loss of sense of smell and taste
- Pressure or pain in the sinuses
- Memory and concentration problems
- Trouble sleeping
- Impaired hand-eye coordination
If your symptoms are interfering with your life and work, it may be time to make an appointment with your healthcare provider.
Diagnosing Hay Fever
To diagnose allergic rhinitis, your healthcare provider will likely begin by reviewing your medical history. Since hay fever is often seasonal, they may ask you to spend a period of time identifying when your hay fever symptoms worsen.
Skin tests may also be performed, such as:
- Percutaneous (prick or scratch) test: A drop of potential allergen is applied to a tiny scratch in the skin to check for a reaction
- Intradermal test: A potential allergen is injected just underneath the skin to check for a reaction
Blood tests can also be used to diagnose an allergy by analyzing immune-related proteins called antibodies. Blood tests may be useful for patients who:
- Have certain skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis
- Are taking medicines known to interfere with test results
- Are at risk of anaphylactic shock
Treating Hay Fever
There are many different ways to treat hay fever. The best way to begin hay fever treatment is to identify the allergens and avoid them as much as possible.
Preventing hay fever symptoms often revolves around avoiding known triggers, though this can prove difficult for airborne triggers. Tools for preventing hay fever or minimizing the development of symptoms include wearing a face mask outdoors and using an air filter for your home.
Other prevention methods can include:
- Keeping windows closed during allergy seasons
- Washing your bedding frequently in hot water
- Using "mite-proof" bedding covers
- Cleaning floors with a damp rag or mop, and using a vacuum cleaner
- Using air conditioning in your home and car, and a dehumidifier to prevent mold
- Avoiding household pets, or at the very least, keeping them out of the bedroom
- Not hanging clothing outdoors to dry
- Wearing glasses or sunglasses when outside to protect your eyes
Hay Fever Medications
Over-the-counter medications are also available for symptom relief, but will not treat the underlying cause. These can include:
- Antihistamines (oral, nasal and eye-drop), which block a symptom-causing chemical called histamine
- Decongestants, which keep the nasal blood vessels from swelling
- Nasal corticosteroids, which reduce swelling
- Cromolyn, an anti-inflammatory drug that reduces swelling
If you have more severe symptoms, prescription antihistamines or corticosteroids may be necessary. Other prescription medications may include ipratropium or leukotriene modifiers.
To treat the cause of the allergy, some healthcare providers may recommend immunotherapy, in which patients receive gradually-increasing doses of the allergens causing their symptoms. Though this therapy has not been supported by clinical evidence, it believed that the treatment causes the immune system to develop a tolerance to the allergen over time.
There are also several home remedies that may be used in rhinitis treatment, such as:
- Rinsing the nasal passages with saline
- Butterbur shrub extract
- Tinospira cordifolia
- Cinnamon bark
- Benifuuki green tea
Speak with your healthcare provider before undergoing any of these home remedies, as side effects are currently unknown.
Request Your Appointment Today
There is no reason for you to suffer from hay fever symptoms. To make an appointment with a healthcare provider in Bethesda who specializes in allergic rhinitis treatment, call (703) 215-2795 or contact Dr. Andrew Heyman online.
Virginia Center for Health & Wellness
Address39070 John Mosby Hwy
Aldie, VA 20105
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