Come close, little ones, and hear our bedtime tale . . .

Once upon a time, there was a woman. In the fall, she loved to go outside and feel the wind. In the winter, she loved to go outside and play in the snow. And in the spring, she would go outside, but her throat would itch, her eyes would get puffy, her nose would run, her sinuses would clog, and she'd get nasal drip. So she locked herself up in her house, and never came out again. The moral of the story: hay fever bites.

Living with hay fever can be extremely difficult - when you're having trouble doing something as simple as breathing, you know that you're in for a long spring and summer. Yet most of us don't live anywhere near a farm . . . so where does the hay fever come from?

It has often been noted (by people who like to note things) that hay fever is not a fever at all, nor does it have anything to do with hay. Hay fever, a.k.a. rose fever, is medically designated as "allergic rhinitis," a seasonal allergy and an inheritable disease in which the victim's immune system unpleasantly overreacts to the presence of pollen. We say "overreact" because the pollen isn't harmful - your body just thinks it is. Your immune system deals with pollen much the way the National Guard was called upon to deal with pot-smoking hippies back in '68. It fights the pollen as though it was a threat to national security, and the nasty symptoms of hay fever are a by-product of that fight.

But fear the fever no more, for in this SYW, we'll give you some top tips for overcoming your allergies, so that you will no longer be held prisoner by your nasal passages.


Every year it's the same thing: spring prances into town and the trees go into a reproductive frenzy. The sneezin' season has begun, and your life becomes a hell of mucus, tears, irritability and depression. Face it - you have allergies. What can you do to manage the unpleasant side effects of this annual vegetable orgy?

First of all, you have to know exactly what you're dealing with. Consider these facts:

  • 26 million Americans suffer from chronic seasonal allergies, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

  • 40 million more have milder symptoms, but symptoms nonetheless.

  • Hay fever costs hundreds of millions of dollars each year in medicine, doctors' bills, and lost work productivity.

  • Hay fever can develop at any stage in life, and once you have it, it probably isn't going to go away.

  • Your sensitivity to the allergen (the substance causing the allergy - in this case, pollen) may go dormant for a time, but it will, in most cases, eventually return, and may worsen.

  • Those who react to only one particular kind of pollen may become sensitive to others over time, or to different types of allergens like mold and dust.

So what makes hay fever different from a cold? Generally, allergic rhinitis can be distinguished from a cold or flu by the absence of fever and muscle aches. Also, a cold will go away in a week to ten days, whereas allergy symptoms will linger for as long as the allergen is present, sometimes for months. The usual symptoms of hay fever are:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Itchy throat
  • Circles under the eyes
  • Irritability
  • You smell bad (That is, your power to detect scents has weakened.)

Now when we say "allergies," you have to understand that we're not talking about ALL allergies. It's possible to be allergic to a vast array of things: pollen, mold, dust mites, bee stings, latex, animal proteins, nuts, chemicals, milk, penicillin, dander, ex-wives, Eskimos, etc. Furthermore, people with a sensitivity to one thing are more likely to be sensitive to others, and many people have tons of allergies that run the gamut. Hay fever just happens to be the most common allergy out there, a general reaction to pollen and mold spores that makes the sufferer feel icky. There are ways to protect yourself, though, as you will soon see.