The symptoms of hay fever include runny eyes, a stuffy nose, and sometimes blotchy, itching skin as well. Fortunately, there are a number of a ways to address these symptoms, both at home and under the care of a doctor. Treatments range from allergy shots, which are designed to desensitize the patient to the allergen causing the hay fever, to dietary changes. Often, the condition can be treated at home; severe cases of hay fever such as those which cause the patient to frequently miss work or school merit a trip to the doctor.
You may hear a doctor referring to hay fever as "allergic rhinitis," which is a more accurate term, referring to the irritation of the nasal passages or rhinitis caused by exposure to environmental allergens. Many people associate hay fever with hay because pollen is a frequent allergen, but numerous other things in the environment can cause the condition as well. One of the first steps in treating hay fever symptoms is identifying what is causing the symptoms, so that you can avoid the allergen.
Pollen and dander are two common culprits behind hay fever symptoms, since both are airborne and often ubiquitous. If you notice an increase in hay fever symptoms in the spring and summer, pollen is a very likely cause. Try to minimize your exposure by keeping the windows closed and planning outdoor activities for the afternoon, when pollen counts tend to be lower. People with severe hay fever may prefer to stay indoors and take advantage of air conditioning.
Some over-the-counter medications can help relieve hay fever symptoms. Antihistamines will help to reduce the allergic reaction, bringing associated swelling, itching, and discomfort down. Try to use non-drowsy formulas, if possible, so that you can remain alert and functional while taking the medication. Decongestants also help to stop up a runny nose. If your hay fever is severe, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroid injections, pills, or nasal sprays.
Over-the-counter nasal sprays can also help. If you get a sore throat, try gargling with a mild salt water rinse, or drinking soothing teas like peppermint and chamomile. Itchy, watery eyes can be treated with eye drops to relieve redness and temper the allergic reaction. Some people have also found success in eating a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, and healthy oils, such as the Mediterranean diet. Avoid dairy, as it promotes mucus production, which is not desirable when you are already suffering from a runny nose.
In a case where hay fever symptoms are severe and unrelenting, you may want to consider immunotherapy, or allergy shots. Be prepared to commit to an extended course of treatment, as the doctor will test you to determine what, exactly you are allergic to and then treat you for it. Allergy shots may take several months, but they are designed to desensitize you, so that your hay fever symptoms are not nearly so severe.