Is It Hay Fever or a Cold?

Is It Hay Fever or a Cold?

If you're one of the millions of Americans who suffer from hay fever (allergic rhinitis), the change of seasons may exacerbate your symptoms. 

Itchy, watery eyes, a scratchy throat, and a stuffy, runny nose can make you dread the arrival of spring. Tree pollen, grass, mold, and ragweed are all possible triggers.

Hay fever can make you feel miserable for a variety of reasons. It can make you tired and exhausted. The fatigue can make it difficult to figure out what's causing your discomfort: hay fever or a cold?

Our allergist at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, Dr. Ulrike Ziegner, can help you figure out if you have hay fever, what you're reacting to, and what treatments will help you. Dr. Ziegner treats patients who have a wide range of allergic and immunologic conditions, including allergic sinusitis, chronic sinusitis, asthma, and food allergies. 

Our goal is to help you figure out what's causing your allergic reactions and how to treat them so you can get back to doing the things you enjoy. 

What causes hay fever?

When you encounter an allergen, your immune system treats it as an intruder. It releases chemicals like histamines, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins, which cause a slew of allergic symptoms like runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing.

The severity of your reaction is determined by how dangerous an allergen is to your body. Take pollen, for instance. Most people have no immune response to pollen, but the immune systems of a small percentage of people perceive it as foreign and dangerous, and they treat it as if it were a pathogen.

Pollen in the air gets trapped in your nasal passages if you’re allergic to it. Pollen particles adhere to mucus membranes, causing irritation and inflammation in the nose and eyes. If you have severe reactions and you are asthmatic, it may exacerbate your asthma, and you may have trouble breathing.

Tests for hay fever

A common cold causes some of the same symptoms as hay fever, often making it difficult to distinguish between the two on your own. Visiting a specialist is the only way to know if hay fever or a cold is causing your symptoms. Dr. Ziegner conducts tests to determine what is causing your symptoms.

There are two different types of tests:

Skin prick tests involve pricking the skin's surface, usually on your back If you have an allergy, your skin in that prick area becomes inflamed, red, and swollen.

Blood tests, on the other hand, can detect more allergens than skin tests. Blood tests are used to identify allergies to food, and insect bites or stings. 

Hay fever treatment

There are several options for managing allergic rhinitis. Antihistamines, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, suppress the body’s immune response, providing relief from symptoms, but only work temporarily.

Steroidal nose sprays can reduce inflammation in the sinuses and ease symptoms when you inhale allergens through the air.

If you require more advanced treatment, Dr. Ziegner may suggest allergen immunotherapy. By exposing you to the irritant in small doses, your immune system can develop a tolerance to the allergen. There are two ways to administer allergen immunotherapy:

Subcutaneous injections

Once Dr. Ziegner has determined what triggers your immune system, she gives you a series of shots containing those allergens. The shots are usually given in the arm in the office over a period of months or years. 

Sublingual immunotherapy

In some cases, prescription tablets or drops that dissolve under the tongue can be used instead of injections. However, sublingual immunotherapy is limited to grass and ragweed allergies.

If you have a cold that doesn’t seem to go away, or comes back during a certain season, then you may have hay fever. To get to the bottom of your symptoms, call 310-504-3242 to schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner for a thorough evaluation.

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