“Hay fever” isn’t necessarily caused by “hay” and “seasonal allergies” can occur during any season of the year.

The medical condition known as “hay fever” is medically “allergic rhinitis,” which is an inflammation in the nose which occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air such as smoke, pollen, pet hair or dander, cockroaches, fragrances, dust or mold.  The body’s immune system identifies these foreign substances as dangerous and releases antibodies to fight them.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include runny nose; stuffy nose due to blockage or congestion; sneezing; red, itchy, and watery eyes; and swelling around the eyes.  Individuals who suffer from allergic rhinitis are also likely to experience symptoms of dermatitis—a rash consisting of itchy, red, swollen, cracked skin.

Left untreated, allergic rhinitis can lead to acute or chronic bronchitis, which is an inflammation of the bronchi and airway of the lower respiratory system. The symptoms of allergic bronchitis are shortness of breath, hyperventilation, rashes, tickling in throat, tight chest, persistent sneezing, coughing, headache, nausea, and other symptoms associated with asthma.  Allergic bronchitis is different than non-allergic bronchitis, which is caused by a virus or bacteria.  Whereas non-allergic bronchitis will generally subside once the virus or bacteria is eradicated from the body, allergic bronchitis will persist so long as the patient is exposed to the allergen which causes it.

Some tips for avoiding these immune responses to allergens include taking anti-histamine medications, undergoing allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual drops), and:

  • Limiting exposure to the outdoors and using air conditioning during high pollen periods.
  • Keeping your heating and cooling system clear of dust and changing the filters frequently.
  • Using dust mite covers for bedding, vacuuming frequently, and using a dehumidifier to control mold.
  • Keeping pets properly groomed and washing your hands after handling or petting animals.
  • Wearing sunglasses and a face mask when doing yard work.
  • Avoiding cigarette smoke and perfume-heavy personal care products.

If a flare-up has already occurred, a decongestant can reduce nasal congestion in the upper respiratory system. Anti-histamines—which can be taken as tablets, syrups, using mists or sprays, and even as eyedrops—block the body’s immune response while an oral or injected steroid can reduce inflammation, enabling healing.

If you are suffering from an acute respiratory illness, the medical providers at ZipClinic Urgent Care will take a detailed history and perform a physical exam to determine whether the cause is viral, bacterial, or allergies. The ZipClinic practitioner will then recommend a course of treatment, prescribe the appropriate medications, and/or make a referral to a specialist for ongoing care.

ZipClinic is located in Denver, Aurora, and Westminster, Colorado; Belgrade, Montana; and Bowling Green, Kentucky.  Visits to ZipClinic are on a no appointment needed, walk-in basis and ZipClinic is open extended evening and weekend hours for your convenience.  ZipClinic accepts most insurance plans and offers affordable cash pay pricing for the uninsured.