Causes and Treatment of Hay Fever – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Causes and treatment of hay fever

Every year there are thousands upon thousands of hay fever sufferers . Although their illness is completely harmless, it is annoying, disabling and affects the well-being and productivity of those affected for several weeks every year . Every year when the grass is in bloom, they feel tingling and burning sensations in the mucous membranes of their nose, eyes, mouth and throat. These symptoms worsen after a few days.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Soreness in the mouth appears, the conjunctivae become inflamed ; burning eyes and tears are the result. The most characteristic are the changes on the nose: the mucous membrane reddens and swells. The nasal cavity becomes narrower, it can no longer be ventilated and is blocked.

The initial urge to sneeze develops into an incessant runny nose with sneezing fits and heavy mucus secretion. The outer nose and eyelids also swell and redden – all together: swelling and reddening of the face, tears and sensitivity to light in the eyes, fits of sneezing, runny nose and nasal congestion give the patient a typical appearance, which fortunately only occurs in particularly severe cases is so pronounced.

Centuries ago it was assumed that such complaints had to be somehow related to the flowering of the grasses, but it has only been known since the middle of the last century that the symptoms of the disease are caused by the pollen flying around in the air. They are inhaled with the air we breathe and come into contact with the mucous membranes of the airways. Bacteria or microorganisms play no role in hay fever , also known as hay fever, so it is not an infectious disease and therefore not contagious.

However, it is one of the allergic diseases and is caused by hypersensitivity of the body tissue to the foreign protein in the pollen. In some people, the body produces more antibodies in the tissue against the so-called antigen of the pollen. The biological reactions are then expressed in the form of vasodilatation and increased secretion of tissue fluid.

The development of this special hypersensitivity is preceded by sensitization (sensitization by repeated injections or by natural means), which usually has already developed in childhood. Repeated contact with the allergenic pollen causes hypersensitivity to increase and only decrease again in middle age. It is interesting that hay fever rarely occurs in indigenous peoples, while it is more common in other peoples and seems to be increasing more and more. It affects at least one to two percent of the general population, with urban dwellers being significantly more involved than rural dwellers.

The widespread and presumably constant increase in allergic diseases in humans in general and hay fever in particular can be explained mainly by the fact that the nervous stress and stress associated with the way of life of the individual overwhelms the currently existing biological responsiveness of the organism in many people. This leads to neuroses and thus to functional weaknesses, which can only become the basis for allergic symptoms together with an antigen-antibody reaction.

In Germany, it is mainly grass pollen that triggers the symptoms. Hypersensitivity to bent grass, rye, golden oats, meadow fescue, meadow comb grass, red fescue, meadow foxtail, bluegrass, ryegrass, sheep’s fescue and some others is particularly common. But the blossoms of the linden and other trees can also trigger such allergic reactions on the mucous membranes. The easiest way would be to keep all pollen away from such people, because even the smallest amounts of pollen can cause irritation. But the grass pollen fly very far and very high; they are also found at high altitudes and even at sea at relatively great distances from land.


Normally, hay fever is not counted among the serious illnesses. In some cases, however, serious complications are possible. The typical consequences of hay fever include significant impairments in quality of life. It is not uncommon for pronounced symptoms to result in absenteeism from school or work.

It is not uncommon for those affected to also suffer from sleep disorders, which in turn have a negative impact on their productivity and quality of life. Without treatment, allergic rhinitis gets progressively worse over time.

If hay fever is not treated professionally, there is a risk of complications such as sinusitis. This usually occurs with common colds. However, allergic rhinitis increases the risk of developing sinusitis. The sinusitis becomes noticeable through a blockage of the nose, green secretion, headache, pain in the face and fever. Sometimes there is also an unpleasant odor of pus in the nose.

One of the most common complications of hay fever is allergic asthma, which occurs in around 40 percent of all patients. Asthma attacks are considered extremely uncomfortable. In extreme cases, they can even assume life-threatening proportions.

The occurrence of a cross-allergy is also threatening. This carries the risk of anaphylactic shock. The patients suffer from an intense skin rash, itching and breathing difficulties that quickly worsen. Particularly dangerous effects are respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest.

When should you go to the doctor?

It is advisable to consult a doctor as soon as the person concerned suffers from increasing discomfort and physical irregularities appear. Sudden attacks of sneezing, swelling of the mucous membranes, itching and impaired breathing are indications of a health problem. Redness of the nose, eyes, or other areas of the face, nasal congestion, and sensory disturbances should be seen by a doctor. An uncontrolled loss of secretions, burning eyes or pain are signs of an existing disease.

If you experience shortness of breath, a feeling of suffocation or abnormalities in the cardiovascular system, you need a doctor. If the symptoms occur suddenly under certain environmental influences, the cause should be clarified. A symptom-free condition in other places or at certain times of the year is characteristic. To avoid complications or a life-threatening condition, a doctor’s visit is necessary. In addition to a diagnosis, medical tests can also be used to determine the extent of the disease.

A sensitivity to touch influences, nasal speech or irritability are other complaints that should be examined more closely by a doctor. In particularly serious cases, an ambulance is required. If an acute situation leads to loss of consciousness, respiratory arrest or a sharp rise in blood pressure, an emergency doctor must be called. At the same time, first aid is required from those present.

Treatment & Prevention

Therein lies the main difficulty, both for treatment and for prophylaxis. Nevertheless, one can say that the symptoms can usually be reduced to a tolerable level. On the one hand you can try to dampen the general hypersensitivity, on the other hand you can reduce the irritability to certain allergens, which you have to find out by testing.

Hay fever itself is not hereditary, but in a certain sense the tendency to hypersensitivity reactions plays a role in its development. These are mostly people whose nervous system is relatively unstable and who by nature are generally delicate and sensitive.

Therefore, the treatment requires different measures. Two to three months before the grass blooms, around the end of February or beginning of March, the patients in severe cases have to be desensitized, i.e. made insensitive, with pollen extracts that have an allergenic effect on them and which have to be tested beforehand. This treatment method consists of an injection course with increasing amounts of antigen.

However, a one-year cure is usually not enough; rather, these measures must be taken several years in a row. But that only makes sense for those whose symptoms are exclusively seasonal, i.e. when grass and cereals are in bloom. In addition, however, hypersensitivity to other foreign proteins, such as house dust , animal hair or certain foods , which have an effect all year round, often develop.

In such cases, the treatment can be supported by an autovaccine individually prepared for the individual patient. The inflammation of the mucous membranes in the form of swelling and increased secretion usually responds quite well, often surprisingly well, to anti-inflammatory drugs, especially to adrenal cortex preparations. Since there is increased histamine formation in an allergic tissue reaction, antihistamine preparations can often have a beneficial effect. However, care should be taken when using them as nasal drops, as prolonged use can cause permanent damage to the mucous membrane.

There is still no remedy with which we can completely prevent or completely cure hay fever. However, all of the measures mentioned can be successful if they are used in a timely and sensible manner and combined appropriately, even though the treatment is often only able to alleviate the symptoms initially and must be repeated annually. Naturally, the general way of life also has an influence: moderate, healthy nutrition, general hardeningand a lower level of nervous stress can do a great deal to improve the state of health of the person concerned. In the case of severe complaints, annual leave should also serve as a healing factor. That is why people suffering from hay fever should drive to the mountains or to places where there are no grass blossoms yet, in order to spend at least part of the danger period without major symptoms.

Even if hay fever cannot be prevented to this day, its symptoms can – as we have seen – be reduced to a tolerable level, and in some cases can be influenced surprisingly well. On the one hand, this requires a wide range of medical efforts, which must extend to the sensible combination of the most diverse treatment principles, and on the other hand, the patience and perseverance of the individual patient is particularly important.


Hay fever always occurs in those affected during the pollen season. Instead of aftercare, preventive measures are useful for this allergy. For this, the allergist can fall back on several approaches. The treatment options are different for each patient.

For this reason, there is no uniform therapy for hay fever. The goal of prevention is to alleviate symptoms during the next pollen season. In addition, the development of asthma attacks should be prevented. The treatment must therefore start in good time, i.e. before the spring and summer months.

A well-known approach is hyposensitization. Alternatively, administration of antihistamine drugs has good prognosis in many patients. In the first variant, the treatment extends over a period of two to a maximum of five years. The affected person is injected with the allergens in a weaker dose before the pollen season.

Over time, the specialist will increase the dose. In this way, the immune system should become familiar with the triggering substances. Alternative medication is primarily aimed at alleviating symptoms. A combination of both methods is also possible in some cases at the doctor’s discretion. The allergy sufferer can even contribute to the course of the disease by taking black cumin capsules. The tablets are available in pharmacies or health food stores.

You can do that yourself

The most effective form of self-help for hay fever is to avoid the allergens as much as possible. The pollen forecasts on television and on the Internet inform patients about peak loads. If possible, those affected should not leave the house on these days and keep the windows and doors closed.

After spending time outdoors, it is important to change your clothes immediately and not to keep the clothes you have worn in the bedroom or living room. Many patients suffer from acute hay fever attacks, particularly at night. These can be prevented or at least alleviated by having those affected shower and wash their hair in the evening. Evening nasal douches with salt water can also prevent swelling of the mucous membranes and a blocked nose.

Over-the-counter antihistamines from pharmacies also help against swollen nasal mucous membranes . These preparations are offered as nasal sprays as well as drops and tablets. Anyone who suffers particularly badly from itchy and burning eyes can also purchase special eye drops for allergy sufferers in the pharmacy . Contact lenses should not be worn if the eyes are severely swollen, otherwise there is a risk that the lenses can no longer be removed.

Over-the-counter medications containing the active ingredient pseudoephedrine often help patients who suffer particularly badly from a runny nose. Pseudoephedrine can completely stop even a severe runny nose within a very short time.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.