Hayfever is a common condition that affects around 1 in 5 people. It’s also a bit confusing, mainly because the terminology gets mixed-up and used loosely, so let’s start by clarifying some terms:
- Hayfever is an allergic condition characterized by itchy nose, sneezing, congested nose, runny & itchy eyes.
- Allergic rhinitis is another term for hayfever.
- Hayfever can be seasonal (usually triggered by seasonal pollens) or year-round (many triggers such that the condition continues all year).
- Sinuses are air-filled cavities in the face and skull, connected to the nose and upper airway. Everyone has sinuses.
- Sinus congestion refers to congestion and blockage in sinuses. Hayfever can cause sinus congestion.
- Sinusitis refers to infection in sinuses, which often follows after sinus congestion.
- Sinus congestion (and sinusitis) can be a complication of hayfever, but it is not the same thing.
Hayfever is an allergic condition and so it is often (but not always) associated with asthma and eczema (also allergic conditions), because allergy is mainly an inherited/genetic trait. Hayfever causes quite significant symptoms and has been shown to cause impaired learning and productivity. It also causes complications (sinus congestion, sinusitis, worsening asthma) that are quite serious. Hayfever symptoms are similar to the typical winter cold, but without the fever, body ache, etc.
Hayfever is treatable. Not curable, but manageable/treatable. The main treatments in use today are:
- Desensitisation – in patients with a small number of triggers (e.g animal dander only), a course of desensitizing treatment (injections) can be helpful. This approach is not helpful for the majority of hayfever sufferers, mainly because most sufferers have many triggers (making desensitisation impractical).
- Antihistamines – these anti-allergy medications work well and they are safe as well as cost effective.
- Nasal cortisone – nasal-spray cortisone is also effective, safe, and affordable.
Hayfever is a common condition that cause significant symptoms and yet it is easily treated in nearly all cases. It is probably under-diagnosed and under-treated so please see your doctor if you think you may have hayfever.