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What Is Hay Fever?

Hay fever affects up to 25% of those in the Western world, and yet millions of people seem unaware of what it actually means to suffer from the condition. So then, what is hay fever? More technically referred to as allergic rhinitis, it is a common allergic condition triggered by wind pollinating plants.

When a person has hay fever, it means that when they breathe significant amounts of pollen, their body releases histamines that cause the allergy symptoms. These symptoms include but are not limited to: itching, swelling and the excess production of mucus. These symptoms are most seen expressed in the nose and eyes, but can also enter the throat or appear on the skin.

The reason it is called hay fever is due to the agricultural history of the western world. Most of the pollen that triggers hay fever symptoms comes during the time of year known as “haying season.” This time of year generally coincides with the spread of pollen from wind-pollinated plants and trees. Unfortunately, even many types of grasses can trigger the effect.

While many people believe that hay fever is limited to a particular time of year, it is possible for it strike at any time. It is just at its peak during spring and summer months. While most of the pollen producing trees begin in the spring, the grasses that contribute to hay fever continue throughout summer and ragweed blooms into the fall. However, most people are seasonal sufferers, and perennial sufferers, who have hay fever year round, will generally grow out of it as they get older.

Like any allergy, one’s likelihood of developing hay fever is based on both genetic and environmental factors. If both of your parents had hay fever then it is likely that they passed it along to you. If only one parent has it then you are not as likely to develop it, although there is a greater chance of it being transferred from the mother than father. Likewise, if you live in area with high amounts of pollen you could spontaneously develop hay fever.

Roughly 75% of the population will develop an allergy at some point in time in their lives. Even if one has not had hay fever before, over-exposure to ragweed, birch trees and other wind-pollinating plants can trigger its development in otherwise healthy human beings. Just as quickly as it develops, it can disappear

Those with hay fever know that the weather plays a large part in how bad their symptoms are. A dry and windy day is much more likely to aggravate hay fever sufferers than days when it is damp and rainy, and the pollen has been drawn closer to the ground. It is the amount of pollen present in the air at any point in time that dictates the onset of hay fever symptoms.


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