Hay fever is a bit of a misnomer because it isn’t caused by hay itself, nor does it produce a fever. Hay fever, more appropriately allergic rhinitis, is caused by uncontrolled swelling of the inside of the nose due to an allergen. The most common allergens are trees, grass, weeds, mold spores, cat, dog and dust mites.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis may include runny or stuffy nose; postnasal drip or drainage; sneezing; itching; dry cough; earache or a stuffy ear feeling; headaches; and a temporary, partial loss of some senses including taste, smell and hearing. Other secondary or less common symptoms may include an upset stomach and nausea. Severe rhinitis symptoms may interfere with sleep and cause excessive fatigue.
Upon identifying your specific allergens, appropriate control of your environment is a very important starting point. For relief, Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida can prescribe a range of allergy treatments including nasal corticosteroids, antihistamines, decongestants or leukotriene modifiers. In those patients who do not respond to medications, prefer not to take medications or are limited by the cost of allergy medications then allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be an excellent treatment option.
Our experienced allergists will customize your personal allergy treatment based on your medical history and your lifestyle. If you need relief from your allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment at one of Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida’s four Jacksonville-area locations near St Johns Bluff, in Orange Park, Mandarin, and near the Northside on Dunn Ave.
Hay Fever / Allergic Rhinitis Frequently Asked Questions
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is the common term for a group of symptoms that mainly affect the nose. These symptoms include a stuffy and runny nose, itchy eyes, a feeling of clogged ears, sneezing, nasal itching, coughing, and postnasal drip. Allergens in the environment bring on hay fever as a result of an inappropriate immune system response. The medical term for hay fever is allergic rhinitis.
Are hay fever and allergic rhinitis the same thing?
In a word, yes. Allergic rhinitis is simply the proper medical term for hay fever. “Hay fever” is somewhat of a misnomer since allergic rhinitis is usually not caused by hay, nor does it result in a fever.
When is hay fever the worst in Jacksonville?
The mild temperatures in Northeast Florida mean that trees start producing spring pollen early in our area– in some years as soon as December. Trees, especially Yellow Pine and Live Oak, produce heaps of pollen from late December until around May. Then grass pollen becomes a problem, which is followed by weed pollen — particularly ragweed and dog fennel. Grass and weed pollen seasons usually end in November.
Unfortunately, the Jacksonville area does not really have a hay fever “off-season.” Our warm winters and early springs mean that allergic rhinitis sufferers may be exposed to pollen year-round. Even during colder-than-average winters, staying indoors can lead to hay fever symptoms from pet dander, mold, and dust mites.
How common is allergic rhinitis/hay fever?
Allergic rhinitis affects up to 30% of all people. The condition is more common among children, but 10-30% of adults also suffer from hay fever. Areas with mild winters, such as the Jacksonville region, tend to have longer allergic rhinitis seasons due to more months of pollen production. In fact, our city is one of the worst in the nation for hay fever sufferers.
Is hay fever contagious?
No. Hay fever is not the result of pathogenic microorganisms, like viruses or bacteria, so it cannot be transmitted from person to person. Instead, an overreaction in the immune system to pollen or another allergen is the cause of hay fever.
Who most commonly gets allergic rhinitis?
Everyone is susceptible to allergic rhinitis, but the problem is most common among people with a family history of asthma or allergic rhinitis and those with a personal history of eczema or asthma. Symptoms usually first appear during youth, mainly affecting children or young adults. However, older individuals can still suffer from allergic rhinitis.
Also, allergic rhinitis can quiet down for years at a time. This dormancy may result from a milder immune response or low pollen seasons, but symptoms may reappear years later.
What are the most common causes of hay fever/allergic rhinitis?
Hay fever is a response to environmental allergens. The most common culprits of seasonal allergies are tree pollen, grass pollen, and weed pollen. On the other hand, dust mites, mold, and animal dander are usually responsible for perennial or year-round allergies.
In hay fever, the immune system produces allergic antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE stimulates special immune cells called mast cells to release histamines that lead to nasal inflammation, rhinorrhea (runny nose), and other symptoms. Put simply, the immune system “mistakes” allergens for dangerous invaders and launches a response.
What are the most common symptoms of hay fever/allergic rhinitis?
The most frequent symptoms of allergic rhinitis are nasal issues like a runny nose, nasal congestion, nasal itching, and sneezing. Additionally, patients may experience itchy and watery eyes, a sore throat, ear stuffiness, and coughing from postnasal drip.
Patients may also suffer from sleep difficulties in severe cases. These problems include difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakening, snoring, mouth breathing, and excessive fatigue during the day. People with asthma may also experience severe asthma flares with allergen exposure.
How does Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida diagnose hay fever?
Our allergy specialists are Board Certified Allergists/Immunologists who diagnose hay fever by reviewing your medical history, performing a physical examination, and talking with you about your symptoms and daily environment. Also, allergy testing is often necessary to identify the specific allergens causing your problems. This allergy testing may take the form of skin testing or blood testing.
How do Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida treat allergic rhinitis?
We can help control your allergic rhinitis with expert advice, prescription medication, and allergy immunotherapy. Naturally, avoidance of allergens goes a long way towards preventing allergy symptoms. Our allergy specialists can offer guidance on avoiding exposure to your trigger allergens, whether they are tree pollen, ragweed pollen, pet dander, or something else.
Other allergic rhinitis treatments include medication to help prevent and control symptoms. These medications may include antihistamines, nasal anti-inflammatories, eye drops, and decongestants.
Finally, many allergic rhinitis patients benefit from allergen immunotherapy hay fever treatment. Immunotherapy, more commonly called allergy shots, conditions your immune system to no longer recognize allergens as threats or triggers. Most patients find that allergen immunotherapy provides excellent relief of hay fever symptoms with less need for medication.
Can hay fever be prevented?
Most standard hay fever treatments are not preventative. For example, over-the-counter medications only lessen the severity of allergic rhinitis symptoms. In addition, conventional medications will not completely prevent the onset of hay fever.
The most effective preventive measures are avoidance and allergen shots. For example, you can help prevent hay fever episodes by staying indoors on days with a high pollen count or refraining from petting cats if you’re allergic to cat dander.
Allergy shots are a highly effective preventative option for many patients. This form of immunotherapy will modify your immune system’s response to allergy triggers and can help you avoid symptom outbreaks altogether.
When should I schedule an appointment with Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida for treatment of my hay fever symptoms?
If you feel that you could have better control of your allergies or you would like help managing your hay fever, please make an appointment with our allergy specialists now. We have four convenient locations in the Jacksonville area. Our Board Certified Allergists/Immunologists will work with you to develop a personalized, effective allergic rhinitis treatment plan that meets your needs.