Do I have hay fever? Your hay fever diagnosis
Do I have hay fever?
Hay fever is a very common allergy, but how are you supposed to know if you have hay fever? Sure, you might get a couple of coughs and sneezes in the summer months, but is that just a cold or is hay fever to blame?
If you’ve ever wondered about hay fever and whether you could have it yourself, we’re here to help. This handy guide will tell you what hay fever is, and how you could be diagnosed with one of the world’s most common allergies.
So, what is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergy to pollen. Pollen is a microscopic natural substance that comes from trees, grasses, and weeds. These plants produce pollen at different times of the year. That's why hay fever sufferers usually see their symptoms appear between the months of May and September.
Pollen is moved by the wind, meaning that if you go outside on the days with a high pollen count, you’ll be surrounded by tiny pollen particles without even knowing about it. When hay fever sufferers come into contact with this pollen, their body will have an allergic reaction and respond to the pollen as if it were a virus.
This is why some symptoms are similar to cold symptoms.
What symptoms do I look for?
There are lots of different symptoms that you can experience when you’re suffering with hay fever. Here is a list of common ones you should look out for:
- Runny or blocked nose
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Itchy nose, roof of mouth, throat, skin, or ears
- Post nasal drip – mucus running from the back of your nose and down your throat
Although these are the most common symptoms of hay fever, you may not experience all of them every time you have an allergic reaction. Many of the symptoms are similar to that of a cold, but there are a few easy ways to tell the difference between the two.
If you suffer with these symptoms during spring and summer or you have them for more than 2 weeks, you probably have hay fever. Also, common colds will never cause itching, so if you’re feeling itchy you can rule out a cold, too.
How will my doctor diagnose me with hay fever?
Although you can probably recognise the symptoms yourself, you may want to speak to a doctor for a formal diagnosis and some good advice. There are a couple of ways your doctor may diagnose you. Typically, they will be able to diagnose you after listening to a description of your symptoms.
Will I need an allergy test?
If your hay fever symptoms are extreme or unusual, then you may need another test before your doctor can provide you with a diagnosis. One example is if you have hay fever symptoms in the winter or experience them all year round. In cases like these, your doctor will normally refer you for an allergy test.
What happens when I have an allergy test?
One of the most common ways of testing for allergies is the skin prick test, which can be used to diagnose lots of different kinds of allergies. A skin prick test will normally be done on a patch of skin on your forearm.
The doctor performing the test will put a drop of water onto your arm which contains a little of the substance you are allergic to (for example, grass pollen), then they will prick the skin underneath the droplet with a needle.
If you are allergic to the substance in the water droplet, then a red, itchy bump will appear within 15 minutes. This tells both you and your doctor exactly what you’re allergic to.
Can I be diagnosed using a blood test?
You can diagnose hay fever using a blood test, and you may be asked to take a blood test alongside or instead of a skin prick test. Your body produces an antibody called Immunoglobin E (IgE) when you have an allergic reaction. So, if your blood test shows that IgE is present in your blood, this could be a sign that you have hay fever.
I’ve been diagnosed with hay fever, what do I do now?
Now that you’ve got your diagnosis and know you’ve definitely got hay fever, you might be wondering what your treatment options are. There are a number of medical and traditional ways to relieve hay fever, so let’s have a look at what you can do to stop those coughs and sneezes.
I need medication, what are my options?
There are a lot of different medicines which can be used to treat hay fever, many of which contain antihistamines. When you have an allergic reaction, your body produces histamine which triggers symptoms such as sneezing and itching.
Antihistamines block the histamine in your body from triggering these symptoms, meaning you’re free to go about your day sneeze-free!
There are four main kinds of treatment:
- Tablets and capsules
- Nasal sprays or inhalers
- Eye drops
Each of these have their own pros and cons. It’s worth looking at each one individually and seeing which one is right for you.
What else can I do?
There are a few simple things you can do to help prevent pollen from dragging you down. For starters, be sure to check the pollen count in your area every day. You can find this online or as part of your local weather report on TV. If there’s a high pollen count, consider staying indoors or taking extra precautions to prevent it.
If you know the pollen count is going to be high, try to keep doors and windows shut to avoid pollen getting inside. Invest in a pair of wrap-around sunglasses which can stop pollen from getting into your eyes. If you’re doing laundry, make sure to dry your clothes and bedding indoors rather than outside to prevent pollen from clinging to them.
All of these little things can help to prevent you from coming into contact with pollen, keeping those allergic reactions at bay. So now you have your hay fever diagnosis and know how to treat it, you can get out there and enjoy all of the lovely spring and summer weather.
Go and show pollen that it can’t keep you down, even if you might be a little sneezy.