Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, causes a type of inflammation in the nose when you breathe in certain allergens. Allergic rhinitis is seasonal and is common during the summers, spring, and autumn. This condition, not very severe in most cases, can be treated with simple medications and remedies.
An allergy occurs when you react to substances in the environment that are harmless to most people. These substances that are recognized by the immune system and cause a reaction are known as allergens.
Dust mites, pollen, ticks, and moulds are common allergens that can cause allergic rhinitis. Allergic rhinitis can also be triggered by indoor pollens such as saliva on pet dander, mould, urine, dried flaky skin, etc.
The most common symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, and postnasal drip (when your nose or your sinuses produce extra mucus and it drips down from the back of your throat). Sometimes, you may experience a loss of sense of smell, mainly due to a blocked or congested nose.
Another symptom of allergic rhinitis is cough, which is often known as hay fever cough. Read on to understand the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hay fever cough.
Identifying a Hay Fever Cough
It might be difficult for you to differentiate between a cough caused by a cold or the flu and a hay fever cough. Striking characteristics of a hay fever cough include:
A cough that lasts for more than 2 weeks.
A cough that leads to watery and itchy eyes, and soreness in your throat.
A cough that is not associated with a fever, headache, or body pain.
If your allergic rhinitis cough is caused by asthma (a chronic condition in which your airways swell and inflame) or other respiratory conditions, it can present with body aches and fatigue.
Possible Causes of Hay Fever Cough
A hay fever cough is a result of your exposure to an allergen or because of over-exposure or recurrent exposure to allergen(s). When your exposure to the allergen is removed, your symptoms and cough usually go away too.
Seasonal hay fever (symptoms are seasonal) cough is triggered by tree, grass, and weed pollen.
Perennial hay fever (symptoms are present throughout the year) cough is caused by pet dander, dust inside your house, excreta, saliva, and shells of dust mites, irritants in laundry detergents, chemicals found in scented products, materials such as rubber, and leather, smoke from burning garbage, and car exhaust.
Symptoms That Hay Fever Cough Presents
A hay fever cough is usually dry and persistent (continuous). A dry cough, also known as nonproductive cough, is one that does not produce phlegm or mucus (a normal, slippery, and stringy fluid in the nose).
Common symptoms of hay fever cough are:
A continuous need to cough
A scratchy, irritated throat
Minor fatigue and weakness due to a persistent cough
How Will Your Doctor Diagnose a Hay Fever Cough?
Coughs are often a symptom of various conditions, from the cold to asthma. It can be difficult to diagnose if you have a hay fever cough. The easiest way to diagnose is if you are suffering from other hay fever symptoms, then your cough is probably caused by hayfever.
Another way to diagnose a hay fever cough is by checking the type of mucus you’re producing, if any. Most often, the mucus in your body starts to thicken to get rid of or to push out the allergen, say a virus or bacteria. If you have thin mucus that does not come up while coughing, then you are most likely to have a hay fever cough.
Your doctor will also try and understand more about your symptoms and what aggravates or subsides them.
Treating Hay Fever Cough With Medications and Home Remedies
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as decongestants and antihistamines are helpful.
Antihistamines are generic drugs to treat allergies and allergic rhinitis.
Decongestants (medications in the form of sprays, nose drops, eye drops, etc.) are used to relieve a stuffy nose and postnasal drip that can cause hay fever cough.
You can also take the help of home remedies to reduce your symptoms and get relief from your nagging cough. Try:
Inhaling steam, from an electric steamer or from a hot shower. The warmth from the steam will open up your blocked nasal passages and moisten them, preventing them from drying out.
Draining your sinuses and nasal passages using the ayurvedic jal neti technique. Sinuses are small air pockets located behind your forehead, nose, cheekbones, and in between the eyes.
The jal neti technique uses water to purify and clean the nasal path, right from the nostrils to your throat. It washes out dirt, bacteria, and mucus, thereby, reducing allergic rhinitis symptoms, including cough.
Consult your physician/ENT specialist to understand the step of jal neti and try it only after clearing knowing how to carry out the procedure.
Hay fever can be caused by both seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis. If you know the cause/allergen of your hay fever cough, it is advisable to stay away from the allergen by staying indoors, keeping the doors and windows closed, washing your hands frequently, and changing clothes regularly.
If your cough doesn't go away for more than 2 weeks, get yourself checked with an allergy specialist/ENT/general physician.
1. ACAAI Public Website. 2021. Cough. [online] Available at: <https://acaai.org/allergies/allergy-symptoms/cough> [Accessed 3 March 2021].
2. Baillie, L., 2021. Hayfever and cough. [online] Avogel.co.uk. Available at: <https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/hayfever/symptoms/cough/> [Accessed 3 March 2021].
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