Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Hay fever affects up to 30% of all people worldwide, including up to 10% of U.S. children under 17 and 7.8% of U.S. adults. The medical cost of allergic rhinitis is approximately $3.4 billion, mostly due to the cost of prescription medications. These figures are probably an underestimate because many of those affected may attribute their discomfort to a chronic cold. Although childhood hay fever tends to be more common, this condition can occur at any age and usually occurs after years of repeated inhalation of allergic substances. The incidence of allergic disease has dramatically increased in the U.S. and other developed countries over recent decades.
"Hay fever" is a misnomer. Hay is not a usual cause of this problem, and it does not cause fever. Early descriptions of sneezing, nasal congestion, and eye irritation while harvesting field hay promoted this popular term. Allergic rhinitis is the correct term used to describe this allergic reaction, and many different substances cause the allergic symptoms noted in hay fever. Rhinitis means "irritation of the nose" and is a derivative of rhino, meaning nose. Allergic rhinitis which occurs during a specific season is called "seasonal allergic rhinitis." When it occurs throughout the year, it is called "perennial allergic rhinitis." Rhinosinusitis is the medical term that refers to inflammation of the nasal lining as well as the lining tissues of the sinuses. This term is sometime used because the two conditions frequently occur together.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, frequently include
Postnasal dripping of clear mucus frequently causes a cough. Loss of the sense of smell is common, and loss of taste sense occurs occasionally. Nose bleeding may occur if the condition is severe. Eye itching, redness, and excess tears in the eyes frequently accompany the nasal symptoms. The eye symptoms are referred to as "allergic conjunctivitis" (inflammation of the whites of the eyes). These allergic symptoms often interfere with one's quality of life and overall health.
Allergic rhinitis can lead to other diseases such as sinusitis and asthma. Many people with allergies have difficulty with social and physical activities. For example, concentration is often difficult while experiencing allergic rhinitis.
"Hay fever" (seasonal allergic rhinitis) affects over
20% of the people living in the U.S. Most common in early spring, the symptoms
of hay fever develop as a reaction to allergens (allergy-causing substances) in the air, most
notably to pollens in the early spring. Other examples of airborne allergens
include moldspores, dust, and animal dander.
Pollen consists of the minuscule, male cells of flowering plants. Pollen from
garden flowers usually doesn't cause allergies, since this type of pollen is
large and waxy and most often carried by insects. Small, light, dry pollens
produced by trees, grasses, and weeds can disseminate with the wind and lead to
Your doctor can help you determine whether treatments are necessary, such as prescription or non-prescription antihistamines to control the symptoms of hay fever. Whether or not you take medication for hay fever, you can still take steps to reduce the severity of your symptoms. The
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) has some useful tips for
those who suffer from seasonal allergies...