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What is Hay Fever and what causes hay fever?

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You likely hear the term hay fever a lot, but do you know what it means?

“Hay fever” is the common term for a medical condition called allergic rhinitis. Ironically, hay fever is not a fever and rarely involves hay.

However, most people are familiar with this term; few people say “my allergic rhinitis is terrible in the spring!”

Hay fever is marked by sneezing, runny and stuffy noses, and itchy eyes, mouth, or skin. Sufferers can also have symptoms of fatigue, largely because they are sleeping poorly from nasal issues and sneezing. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the condition effects more than 40 to 60 million Americans.

So, what causes hay fever?

The most common culprits are outdoor allergens, especially pollen from grasses, trees, weeds, wild flowers, and other plants.

However, indoor allergens can be a trigger for hay fever. Pet dander can cause allergic rhinitis, as can dust mites, mold, cigarette smoke, and perfume. There is also scientific evidence that diesel fuel is more likely to cause allergy problems than other types of fuels, although the connection remains unclear.

Allergy suffers are essentially victims of their own immune system. When an allergen (the allergy-causing substance) is inhaled, the immune system reacts, sending disease-fighting chemicals to the nasal passages, sinus, eyelids, and other areas. While the reaction is meant to protect your body, the immune system is causing the runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes, all in an effort to fight a substance that is essentially harmless.