Hay fever is the common term for allergic rhinitis, a condition in which your nasal passages become swollen and inflamed, producing cold-like symptoms. Unlike a cold, however, hay fever is caused by an allergic response to an indoor or outdoor substance such as pollen, mold, or animal dander.
Hay fever is a bit of a misnomer, as it has nothing to do with hay and does not cause a fever. It is actually an immune system response to an allergen that is perceived as a threat, such as pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds; dust mites; mold and fungi spores and smoke or pollution.
Symptoms of hay fever closely mirror that of the common cold, minus the body aches and fever sometimes associated with cold viruses. Signs include sneezing, watery eyes, itchiness (nose, throat, and eyes), runny/stuffy nose, sinus pain and pressure and swollen, bluish skin beneath the eyes known as allergic shiners. Some patients report headaches and a loss of smell and taste. Severe cases of hay fever can interfere with your sleep and lead to fatigue and irritability. Hay fever often triggers attacks in asthma sufferers.
Certain risk factors make you more susceptible to developing hay fever. These include having a family history of hay fever, asthma, other allergies, exposure to secondhand smoke, males, and those born during pollen season all have an increased chance of contracting hay fever at some point.
Avoiding the allergens that trigger your body’s immune system response is the best way to prevent hay fever. It can be tough to avoid all traces of these substances, of course, making medical treatment necessary for many people. Drugs – including antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal and oral corticosteroids – are often helpful. Over-the-counter medications work fine in many cases, but if you aren’t finding relief from those, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) offer long-term relief when other options fail, and work by allowing your body to build up a tolerance to the offending substance by delivering gradually increasing doses over time.
Loss of Smell
Loss of smell, known medically as anosmia, is an inability to perceive odors. It can be partial or complete and, while rarely the symptom of a serious condition, can still cause misery for those suffering from its effects. It is usually temporary, the result of a cold or upper respiratory infection, but in some cases – especially those involving the elderly – the loss of smell may be permanent and a sign of a serious condition.
Anosmia occurs when the sinuses become swollen and inflamed. The most common causes include colds, flu, allergies, sinusitis and nonallergic rhinitis. Nasal obstructions such as polyps, tumors and other deformities can block the flow of air through the nose and lead to a loss of smell. There are many other possible causes including Alzheimer’s disease, brain tumor, aneurysm, diabetes, cocaine use, chemical exposure, malnutrition, hormonal imbalances, medications, Parkinson’s disease, rhinoplasty, radiation therapy and old age, among others.
Obviously, the telltale sign of anosmia is a loss of smell that cannot be traced to a cold or allergy. Some patients report a change in the way things smell. If the condition persists for longer than a week or two, you should consult a doctor.
Treating anosmia depends on what is causing it. If a cold or allergies are to blame, treatment is unnecessary; your sense of smell should return in a few days as symptoms improve. If a polyp or other growth is blocking your nasal passages, surgery may be necessary. For bacterial infections, antibiotics are prescribed. Other conditions may require more specialized medical treatment. Occasionally, the sense of smell returns automatically, without any type of treatment.
Loss of smell can’t always be treated effectively, particularly if it is the result of age. In these cases, it’s important to take extra precautions to ensure your safety. Make sure the batteries in your smoke detectors are all functioning properly and change them often. Take care when eating leftovers; your sense of smell directly affects your ability to taste, and consuming spoiled food could cause serious health problems.
Though common and sometimes frightening, nosebleeds are rarely anything more than a nuisance. They are usually the result of minor irritations in the nasal passages, and most common in children younger than 10, or adults older than 50.
When the membranes lining the inside of the nose dry out and become irritated, the blood vessels break, causing a nosebleed. These are more common in the winter months, when the air is cold and dry. Other factors that may contribute to nosebleeds include colds and allergies, sinus infections, nose picking, blowing the nose too hard, frequent sneezing, overuse of nasal sprays, foreign objects in the nose, and trauma to the nose.
If nosebleeds are chronic or occur frequently, they may be the result of high blood pressure or other vascular diseases or, in rare cases, a serious medical condition like a tumor.
The nose is prone to bleeding due to a large number of blood vessels close to the surface, especially in the cartilage of the nasal septum. When these burst, blood may trickle (or in some instances, seep) from the nose. This is most often the result of trauma to the nose, blowing or picking the nose, and dry or cold air. Other causes include sinus infections, colds and allergies, foreign objects in the nasal cavity, blood clotting disorders, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and overuse of nasal sprays. Aspirin can exacerbate the condition. A hereditary disorder known as hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia is characterized by malformed blood vessels that break easily.
Most nosebleeds originate in the front of the nose and are characterized as anterior nosebleeds. These are easy to control and rarely pose a problem. Posterior nosebleeds are rare, but much more serious. They originate from an artery in the back of the nose, and require immediate hospitalization and treatment. These are most common in the elderly.
If you are experiencing a nosebleed, first and foremost, stay calm! Though your nosebleed may look serious, chances are there is much less blood than appearances would lead you to believe. Sit down and lean forward slightly while pinching your nostrils together using a thumb and index finger. Hold this position for at least 5 minutes, or until the bleeding has stopped. Refrain from blowing your nose afterwards. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped after 20 minutes or is the result of an injury to the face, seek medical attention. We can deal with a bleeding nose by cauterizing the blood vessels or inserting packing into the nasal cavities. Sometimes, anticoagulants and anti-inflammatories can cause nosebleeds. If you suspect this is the case, talk to us about alternative medications.
If you are prone to frequent nosebleeds, there are steps you can take to prevent them. Keep the nasal lining moist with a light coating of petroleum jelly several times a day, or use a saline nasal spray. Run a humidifier, especially if you live in a dry climate. Quit smoking; this causes dryness and irritation.
You may want to consult an otolaryngologist if recurring nosebleeds are a problem. If you’ve ever had a nosebleed, you may have been startled – and a little afraid – at seeing blood coming from your nostril(s). Fortunately, most nosebleeds are minor and rarely a cause for alarm. It is estimated that 1 out of every 7 individuals suffers from at least one nosebleed in his or her lifetime.
Call (913) 663-5100 for more information or to schedule an appointment.