Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, causes cold-like symptoms. These may include a runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. But unlike a cold, hay fever isn’t caused by a virus. Hay fever is caused by an allergic response to a harmless outdoor or indoor substance the body identifies as harmful, known as an allergen.1
Common allergens that can trigger hay fever symptoms include pollen and dust mites. Pet dander made up of tiny flecks of skin or fur shed by cats, dogs, and other animals with “hair” or feathers also can be allergens that cause hay feverlike symptoms.
Hay fever cannot be transmitted. In other words, it’s not contagious; however, hay fever can rage for weeks, months or even year-round. Colds generally last a week or less. Why is that?
If you are allergic to a seasonal environmental trigger such as pollen, your hay fever symptoms may be limited to particular seasons of the year. If you’re allergic to dust or smoke, symptoms may last all year long.
The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Colds are generally caused by rhinoviruses and are highly contagious. Colds spread easily from one person to the other via coughing, sneezing and touching infected surfaces.
Cells in the nasal cavity recognize foreign substances and once they detect a bug or irritant, they activate “T cells” (a type of white blood cell that helps protect the body from infections) to search, find and destroy the culprits. This process is known as an immune response—and it occurs whenever you catch a cold or any other virus.
With hay fever, the irritant triggers the same T cells as it does with viruses. But with hay fever, the irritant also causes the release of IgE antibodies and histamines which produce ongoing symptoms, such as a plugged nose, losing the sense of smell and even nasal inflammation. Hay fever also produces itchiness on the face, especially near the eyes and throat, something colds do not.
Hay fever and colds share other symptoms: extreme fatigue, postnasal drip, coughing and runny noses. Hay fever sufferers tend to have watery runny noses, while those with a cold may have yellow or thicker discharge. Hay fever produces a dry cough whereas colds may have “productive” coughs that are phlegmy.
One major difference between hay fever and the common cold is the sore throat. Hay fever may produce the effect of an itchy throat; in fact, the whole mouth, from roof to throat may itch. The sore throat is virtually always a precursor to a full-blown cold.
Symptoms can be similar, so it can be difficult to tell hay fever from a cold, especially since some people don’t develop hay fever until adulthood. This can result from a genetic predisposition that pops up when there is an unusually high level of airborne pollen, a major change in your lifestyle, moving to a different city, state or country, and even changes to what and how you eat. Although hay fever recurs and may last a very long time, about 50% find symptoms decrease as they get older and 10-20% outgrow it at some point in their lives.2
Anyone who suffers from hay fever or frequent colds can attest to how important it is to be proactive to help minimize symptoms. One tried and true method is to use an air filter year-round to improve air quality. At Nikken, we offer an effective and eco-friendly air filter known as the KenkoAir Purifier®.
The KenkoAir Purifier helps improve your indoor air quality to a higher level with an ultra-clean three level filtration system that captures up to 99.95% of 0.3 micron particles in the air. A pre-filter acts as a physical barrier or trap to remove large particles, an activated carbon absorption filter removes airborne gas and solution molecules, while the HEPA filter helps to remove ultra-fine particles such as airborne allergens. Negative Ion Technology replicates the clean, refreshing air found in natural settings, such as by a lake or a forest.
You can replace the filter every six months and the prefilter is re-usable, leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Environmentally-friendly, the KenkoAir Purifier is made with recyclable materials. At Nikken, we believe “To breathe is to live” and to live well is to be in harmony with nature!