Hay Fever, Allergy And Asthma

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Hay Fever, Allergy & Asthma


Hay fever is a chronic condition characterised by sneezing, nasal
congestion, runny and itching nose, palate, ears and eyes. If you recognise
any of these symptoms chances are, you or some member of your family has
experienced hay fever at one time or another.

Doctors call it allergic rhinitis. Most people know it as hay fever and
if you've got it - - as 22 million Americans do - - you're likely to be
plagued during the spring and fall seasons by such annoying symptoms as
sneezing, congestion, runny nose, itchy throat and red, watery eyes. Allergy
has different names.

Allergy reactions occurring in the nose and sinus are called
"sinus" or "hay fever" or "allergic rhinitis."
And when allergy reactions occur in the chest we call it "asthma."
Allergy reactions in the skin are named "hives" or
"angioedema." So you see, allergy has different names depending
upon where in your body it occurs. One out of every six Americans suffers
from an allergic condition. Allergy is an inherited trait, a genetic
susceptibility towards the production of certain allergy anti-bodies. Hay
fever is basically an allergic reaction to pollens from trees, weed and
grasses. Unlike garden flower pollen, which is carried by insects, the dry
lightweight pollens which cause allergic rhinitis are generally spread by
wind currents which make them difficult to avoid.

In fact, samples of ragweed pollen have been found 400 miles at sea!
While most people suffer mild discomfort with hay fever, it is estimated that
more than 40 percent of the 5.8 million children who have respiratory
allergies miss some school, stay in bed or feel upset by the condition.
Additionally, complications from allergic rhinitis can be serious. The same
allergens that cause hay fever can reach the lungs causing asthma and other
complications. Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus cavities) and nasal
polyps (small outgrowths of the mucous membrane of the nose) may develop.
Secondary infections of the ear, larynx and bronchial tubes may occur. Also,
prolonged year-round nasal stuffiness and mouth breathing may lead to facial
bone growth changes in children. Surprisingly, many parents realise that
their children have asthma before their physicians do. An accurate diagnosis,
however, is most important in helping to determine an appropriate
individualised treatment program. Physicians specialising in
allergy/immunology have special skills in the area of asthma management. The
allergy and asthma specialist will detect and determine those environmental
elements (pollens, moulds, dust mites, animal danders, work place chemicals)
which may be the cause of a patient's asthmatic condition.

A careful medical history, physical examination, selective allergy
skill testing and lung function studies are typically performed.
Occasionally, blood tests, home and work place evaluations, and x-rays of the
sinuses and lungs are required.

Unlike hay fever, asthma is a more complex disease involving a
reversible constriction of the muscles lining the human airways,. It is more
often associated with allergy immune cells and can get progressively worse
reaching life-threatening stages if not properly controlled. It can be
treated more effectively when it is diagnosed early.

The best therapy of all, however, is avoidance of those things which
produce asthma symptoms. This includes allergens, such as house dust mites,
pets and irritants, such as tobacco smoke and chemical fumes.

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