MadSci Network: Immunology

Re: Is the Hay Fever condition related to hay? Does it cause a fever?

Date: Fri Aug 20 10:51:59 1999
Posted By: Richard Deem, Staff, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Area of science: Immunology
ID: 934930307.Im

Hay fever (technically called allergic rhinitis) is the fifth most 
prevalent chronic condition in the United States with more than 24 million 
people suffering from it. Hay fever is not caused by contact with hay and 
does not result in a fever. It is an allergic response to airborne seasonal 
substances like pollen from weeds, flowers, grasses, and trees, as well as 
substances like mold, dust mites, animal dander, and tobacco smoke. The 
vast majority of cases (about 75%) are caused by ragweed pollen (which is 
produced mainly in the Spring and early summer).

Hay fever results when pollen, or another allergen, enters the nasal 
passage of and reacts with IgE antibodies that are bound to the surface of 
specialized white blood cells known as mast cells and basophils. With that 
contact, the cells release chemicals, such as histamine, that produce or 
control inflammation. These chemicals are responsible for symptoms like 
itching, watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing.

Hay fever is diagnosed most often by presentation of symptoms. The specific 
cause of hay fever is often diagnosed through a skin test. The test 
requires a doctor to prick or scratch the skin and apply a small sample of 
the possible allergen. The area is then monitored for reaction. Newer 
methods for detecting total IgE (the antibody involved in allergic 
responses) include enzyme-link immunosorbent assays (ELISA) and the radio 
allergosorbent technique (RAST).

Hay fever can sometimes be treated through avoidance or removal of airborne 
allergens, if possible (usually only practical with allergies to pets). 
Over-the-counter and prescription medications are often used to control 
symptoms. They include antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops, and nasal 
spray. Immunization with the allergen can help build tolerance to the 
substance through the production of IgG antibodies. These antibodies react 
with the allergen before it can bind to the IgE to produce symptoms.

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