Causes of Hayfever
Its that time of year again when the cursed among us do our best to enjoy the summer through the sneezing fits and the streaming eyes. Yes, we're taking about hayfever, so here is the low down on the biology behind on those seasonal sniffles.
Hayfever is an allergy
Despite the name, hayfever has little to do with hay, the physician who called it this just began to sneeze every time he entered a hay barn. Hayfever, of allergic rhinitis to give it its medical term, is an allergic condition of the upper respiratory tract. Hayfever affected individuals are generally allergic to pollens (ragweed is particular allergenic), which is hence why most people suffer during the late spring and summer time. The most common symptoms are a runny/itchy nose, sneezing and stingy, watery eyes.
Hayfever and Immune Response
So what actually causes hayfever and other allergies? When you make an immune response against a compound (in immunological terms called an antigen), one of the defences of the body is to produce antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that bind to foreign invaders allowing them to be quickly cleared. The binding of antibodies to their particular antigen is incredibly specific. Certain types of antibody (called immunoglobulin E or IgE) can bind to various types of white blood cell and upon recognition of their specific molecule they send an activation signal to the cell. In the case of allergy this cell is the mast cell. Antibody activation of mast cells is an important mechanism for the immune response against pathogen infection however certain individuals seem to be prone to making IgE antibody responses against normal harmless environmental antigens. Mast cell activation results in the release of histamine, the potent mediator behind those hayfever symptoms.
So what can you do to avoid hayfever? Well for one get someone else to mow the lawn! Also keep windows and doors shut when the pollen count is high and remember that hayfever is during the morning time that airborne pollen is at its worse.
Fortunately there are a number of drug treatments available to treat hayfever. These include anti-histamines which block the effects of histamine and is therefore a good way of stopping the hayfever symptoms before they start. Decongestants are also useful in helping with congestion. These drugs are both available over the counter. In addition, if these don't work hayfever steroid treatments are available on prescription.
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"I hate hayfever, get it every year and its awful! i always get itchy eyes and it ruins my summer!! :( "
"not a great site!"
"I take all of these treatments, and still get hay fever, eye drops nose spray everything, i here there a needle you can take too prevent hay fever and stop it, is this true ?."