Allergies occur when the body views any foreign substance or allergens as harmful and attacks it, causing reactions that range from hives, rash, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, and sinus pressure.
Hay fever is a type of allergy that occurs in response to specific allergens and typically lasts for months. Symptoms are often mistaken for a cold.
|Clinical features||Allergy||Hay fever|
|Definition||Occur when the body views a foreign substance (allergen) as harmful and attacks it||Specific type of chronic allergic reaction|
|Onset||Develops immediately and stops once the allergen is removed||Chronic condition that can last for months|
What is the difference between hay fever and a cold?
Hay fever can produce symptoms similar to the common cold. However, hay fever is often chronic and can last for months.
|Hay fever||Common cold|
|Occurs due to exposure to an allergen||Occurs due to exposure to a virus|
|Symptoms begin immediately after exposure to the allergen||Symptoms start 1-3 days after exposure to the virus|
|Hay fever may continue as long as you are exposed to the allergens||Cold may last for 3-7 days|
|Symptoms include a runny nose with thin, watery discharge||Symptoms include a runny nose with thicker, yellow discharge|
|Does not cause fever||May cause low-grade fever|
How to treat allergies and hay fever
The primary approach to treating an allergic reaction is identifying and avoiding the allergen. If this isn’t a viable option, your doctor may prescribe treatment such as:
- Allergy shots: Allergy shots involve exposing you to small amounts of allergens and then slowly increasing the amount over time to desensitize your body to the allergen. The treatment course begins with weekly shots and gradually moves to monthly shots. Sublingual allergy shots, a tablet form of allergy shots, may also be given to treat allergies.
- Medications: Medications such as leukotriene inhibitors can be beneficial in blocking the immune cells released by the body when exposed to allergens. Inhalers may also help ease allergy symptoms.
- Epinephrine auto-injector: For life-threatening allergies, you may need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector.
Your physician may develop a treatment plan based on:
- Severity of symptoms
- Allergen triggers
- Medical needs
Avoiding the trigger is the initial step of the treatment course. Other treatment options may include:
- Nasal corticosteroids
- Decongestant medications
- Allergy shots
- Eye drops
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