The changing of the seasons, particularly the start of spring and fall, is commonly referred to as allergy season. This period is often heralded by watery eyes, sneezing and an increase in the purchase of the best over the counter cold and flu medicine to try to control the unpleasant symptoms.
Hay fever and allergies are often lumped together. While they share similarities, they are separate conditions that have distinctive impacts on their sufferers.
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever, known scientifically as allergic rhinitis, is a condition in which the body recognizes certain foreign substances as a threat and produces an immune response. The most common substances that trigger this condition include:
- Pet dander/fur
The symptoms of hay fever are respiratory and dermatological in nature and often involve a runny nose, congestion, itchy mouth and skin and constant coughing. Hay fever can be seasonal or perennial (year-round).
Those who suffer from this condition often use medications to mitigate their symptoms. Antihistamines are popular, but many turn to homeopathic allergy medication for a solution with fewer side effects.
What Are Allergies?
Allergies occur when the body recognizes a foreign substance as a threat and deploys the immune system. These substances, known as allergens, are often harmless to most people but can pose a deadly risk to those who experience allergic reactions. Any substance can be an allergen, but the most common examples are:
- Pet dander/fur
- Cosmetics and toiletries
Allergy symptoms can range in severity from a skin rash to anaphylactic shock, a potentially life-threatening condition where the airways constrict. Milder symptoms are treated with over-the-counter medications, while severe reactions may require a combination of an inhaler, an epinephrine shot and a trip to the hospital.
What Are the Similarities?
Both hay fever and allergies are immune responses. Pollen, dust and cockroaches are shared allergens between the conditions that often produce similar reactions.
These conditions also impact skin and respiratory health in similar ways. Depending on the severity of the allergy, both allergy and hay fever sufferers alike rely on medications to manage symptoms.
What Are the Differences?
Hay fever is a chronic condition that can affect the body seasonally or year-round. Limiting or avoiding exposure does not prevent or alleviate symptoms, which can last for months. However, despite the longevity of the condition, symptoms aren’t typically life-threatening and can be effectively managed. Many are turning to homeopathic remedies for chest congestion.
Allergies are typically only triggered by the body coming into contact with the allergen. For example, someone who’s allergic to peanuts can avoid a reaction by carefully reading food packaging, inquiring about food preparation methods when eating out and avoiding contact with others who actively handle peanuts. With the exception of pollen and insects, most allergies aren’t tied to a particular season. While hay fever rarely, if ever, has life-threatening symptoms, allergies can be deadly if severe reactions aren’t treated immediately.
Hay fever and allergies are comparable in many ways, but the different symptoms and their management set them apart. It is crucial to recognize these conditions as separate to effectively manage them and avoid discomfort or deadly outcomes.