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What's the Difference Between Allergies and Hay Fever?

If you’re one of the 30-40% of Americans who suffer from allergies and hay fever, you know allergic reactions are no fun. Whether it’s sneezing, rashes, sniffling, or hives, allergy and hay fever symptoms range from inconveniencing to life-threatening.

Many patients know they react to various allergens, but they don’t know if their reactions are due to allergies or hay fever. While hay fever is a type of allergy, not all allergic reactions come from hay fever.

Keep reading to learn from Dr. Reinhard Kage and Dr. Barbara Kage of Rheumatology and Allergy Institute of Connecticut about the differences between allergies and hay fever, and how to thrive with both conditions. 

What are allergies?

Your body develops allergies when it views a foreign substance, or allergen, as harmful and attacks it. Unlike most pathogens your body attacks, an allergy is a reaction to a substance not harmful to most people.

It’s possible to develop an allergy to nearly anything. Some of the most common allergies include pollen, food, mold and dust, insects, and pet dander.

When you come into contact with the substance you’re allergic to, your body will have a reaction while trying to fight off harmful pathogens. Reactions can range from mild, such as rashes, hives, nausea, and fatigue, to severe anaphylactic shock.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is a specific type of chronic allergic reaction. When you get hay fever, your symptoms are similar to when you have a cold, such as a runny nose, sore throat, congestion, and watery eyes. You might even initially mistake hay fever symptoms for a cold.

Unlike other allergic reactions, which typically go away after you’re no longer exposed to the substance, hay fever is often chronic and can last for months. The most common substances that cause hay fever include pollen, mold, and dust.

How to treat allergies

In some cases, the best way to manage allergic reactions is to completely avoid the allergen triggering substance. But when the allergen is impossible to avoid, or allergic reactions are getting in the way of your life, our doctors offer solutions that will help you manage them.

Allergy shots help desensitize your body to allergens by exposing your body to a small amount of the allergen, slowly increasing the amount over time. Our doctors develop a treatment course to your triggering allergens, starting with weekly shots and moving to monthly over time.

Other allergy treatments our doctors prescribe include medication, inhalers, and sublingual immunotherapy tablets, a tablet form of allergy shots. For certain life-threatening allergies, our doctors prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector for you to carry with you in case of exposure to the allergen.

How to treat hay fever

If our doctors diagnose you with hay fever, they’ll develop an individualized treatment plan based on the severity of your symptoms, allergen triggers, and medical needs. Like other allergies, in some cases, you can manage hay fever by avoiding contact with the allergen.

Other treatments our doctors offer for hay fever include antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, decongestant medications, allergy shots, and eye drops. Your treatment might include a combination of these interventions.

Whether you have allergies, hay fever, or both, it’s possible to thrive with the right treatment. With two convenient offices in Manchester and Middletown, our specialized doctors treat patients throughout Connecticut. 

To schedule your consultation, please request an appointment online, or call your preferred practice location. 

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