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Have you noticed your nose has started itching? Red, itchy eyes, congested nose and sinuses, sneezing and that stuff that drips down the back of your throat? Can't sleep because of the congestion, and tickling cough?
It could be hay fever. You can get it all year round, but more people tend to suffer in hay fever season, starting just around spring. Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, has become more common in Westernized countries. Up to 40% of New Zealanders have it. It is associated with significant reduction in work or school performance and quality of life. It results in up to 4% people losing time off work, and up to 40% reduction in work performance.
Hay fever can start as early as the age of 2 years. If both your parents have it, you have a 50% chance of getting it too.
An inflammation due to irritants in the environment
Hay fever is inflammation of the nose, throat, and upper air tubes caused by things in the environment. This causes swelling, itching and increased mucus.
Some people get it all year round. This is caused by dust mites, cockroach body parts and pet hair in the environment.
Seasonal hay fever starts from spring and is due to pollens. In summer, it is due to grasses.
The effect that food has on the immune system is often not realized. Often, gluten containing foods such as bread, baking and pasta will aggravate hay fever. So will milk and yoghurt in some people. And so will stress.
Allergic shiners and the allergic salute
People who have hay fever don't just sneeze or have an itchy nose, they can have an annoying cough caused by mucous dripping down the back of the throat – this is called “Post nasal drip”. Some people have dark circles under their eyes. Doctors call these "allergic shiners".
When a person has a horizontal crease around the bridge of their nose, doctors suspect that they frequently perform "the allergic salute" – which is where the person wipes the nose upwards with the open palm of their hand.
Good reasons to treat hay fever
Hay fever should not be taken lightly because it can significantly affect quality of life by causing:
How to treat hay fever
Finally, as well as the quality of life issues that sufferers of hay fever have, a good reason for treating it is because it will also reduce any tendency to asthma.
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