A woman experiencing hay fever symptoms.
Healthy Living

Hay Fever Symptoms: When to See a Specialist

Jun 3 2021
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Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis caused by seasonal allergies, brings misery to millions of people. Those who have it suffer from itchy eyes, watery eyes, nasal congestion, wheezing, loss of the sense of smell, headache, fatigue and more. And with each season bringing on different allergens, it can be hard for people to find consistent relief.

“If you’ve run the gamut of rinses as well as over-the-counter and prescribed medications but nothing is helping, consider seeing a specialist for a proper diagnosis,” says Matthew Vajen, DO, one of our physicians (pictured left) who specializes in otolaryngology, or issues of the ear, nose and throat.

Sinusitis can also occur from hay fever, which is when the tissue lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed.

Bacterial sinusitis, also known as a sinus infection, causes painful inflammation and swelling of the sinuses. You may feel this as pressure or pain in your forehead, along the sides of the nose, between your eyes and even in your teeth and jaws.

“Nasal obstructions, such as polyps, block the drainage of your nasal passages. If left untreated, they can lead to an infection that can spread around the eyes and go to the brain,” says Dr. Vajen. “Taking antibiotics won’t help and can lead to antibiotic resistance. Basically, you need to remove the blockage.”

Chronic sinusitis, which is long-term inflammation of the sinuses, can result from irritation and swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose caused by allergens or, in some cases, repeated bacterial infections. Chronic sinusitis can be accompanied by nasal polyps, especially in allergy patients.

“Anatomic issues, such as a deviated septum, swollen turbinates or polyps, can prevent the alleviation of your allergy symptoms and that can lead to chronic sinusitis,” says Dr. Vajen.

Those more at risk for developing sinusitis include people with nasal allergies, nasal polyps, asthma, abnormal nose structures and people who smoke. When treating patients, Dr. Vajen obtains CAT scans and looks through the nose with a scope to confirm the presence of inflammation and obstructions.

“Some of these patients are candidates for endoscopic sinus surgery,” he shares. “We perform this surgery through the nose to remove the obstructions and allow the sinuses to drain normally again. This then allows mucus to clear out the bacteria. Overall, the procedure relieves symptoms like facial pressure and pain and helps prevent recurring infections.”

Most sinus surgeries take 15 to 45 minutes and are performed on an outpatient basis. Swelling of the nasal passages is typical after surgery and can last for up to three weeks before clearing.

“Once the swelling goes down, patients should experience relief of their symptoms,” says Dr. Vajen.

Learn more about the ear, nose and throat (ENT) services we offer at Mercy Health.


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