Allergies can produce a variety of symptoms, but one thing everyone affected with allergies experiences is discomfort. People can be allergic to pollen, pet dander, dust, foods and plants. Pollen allergies most commonly cause nasal congestion, a runny nose, sore throat and itchy eyes. Less frequent symptoms include hives, itchy skin, cough, mood changes and body aches.
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Histamine is a substance that causes inflammation in the body. It is the source of most allergic reactions, including pollen allergies. After exposure to pollen, the body reacts to it as a foreign invader by releasing antibodies and natural chemicals called histamines. This histamine response produces the symptoms normally associated with allergies, including stuffy and runny nose and watery eyes.
Hay fever is another name for the reaction that occurs after exposure to allergens such as pollens, grasses or flowers. Because hay fever is associated with plants, you may be affected more strongly by allergy symptoms at different seasonal times. Seasonal allergies usually begin during childhood, but you can develop them as an adult, as well, especially if you move to a new area where you are not accustomed to the environment.
Colds Versus Allergies
Allergies can make you feel miserable, and the symptoms often are similar to those of a common cold. However, some characteristics more often distinguish allergies from colds. Allergies are more likely to cause runny nose, scratchy throat and itchy or watery eyes, while colds are more likely to cause body aches and fever. However, it is possible to have body aches with allergies. Onset and duration of the symptoms are good ways to identify whether you have a cold or allergies. The onset of allergies is nearly immediate after exposure to pollen and continues for as long as you are around the allergen. Colds come on more gradually and end within five to seven days.
Pollen allergies can be treated with antihistamine allergy medications, which can be found over the counter or by prescription. These medicines work by blocking histamines but may cause drowsiness and dry mouth. Corticosteroid pills and nasal sprays are available by prescription only and reduce the swelling in your nasal passages. A natural treatment is use of a neti pot, which irrigates the sinuses with salt water and flushes out histamines in the nose.