What Are Seasonal Allergies?
Seasonal allergies are allergies that occur -- as their name implies -- during specific seasons, usually spring, summer, or fall. It's during these seasons that airborne allergens, such as pollen and mold spores, are at their highest levels and trigger allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to them.
If you're one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, you're familiar with the symptoms: runny or stuffy nose; itchy, watery eyes; sneezing; and an itchy palate or throat.
Why does your body react this way in the first place? That's something researchers are still trying to figure out. But we do know what happens during an allergic response: Your immune system overreacts to something it thinks is a danger to you. It's actually this reaction -- not the allergen itself -- that causes uncomfortable symptoms.
When you're exposed to a substance that your immune system has decided is an unwelcome visitor, it tries to fight off the invader by producing targeted immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies then send off histamines and other chemicals to battle the offending irritant. In the case of airborne seasonal allergens, histamines cause the blood vessels and tissue in your nose and sinuses to swell (stuffy nose), become inflamed (itchiness), and produce extra mucus (runny nose, watery eyes).
So what's hay fever? Well, it's not a hay allergy, and it's not a fever. The term hay fever is the generic catchall name many people use when referring to seasonal allergies.