What are the signs and symptoms of hay fever?

Hay fever can cause symptoms in the eyes as well as the nose and respiratory tract. Eye symptoms include watery, itchy, red eyes. There can also be a gritty feeling in the eyes, and increased tear production, leading to watery eyes. Dried tears can stick eyelashes together – this can happen in the morning after sleeping. The eye symptoms found in hay fever are symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis. The redness is due to blood vessels becoming wider (vasodilation), which is an inflammatory response to allow more immune cells into the area. Leaky blood vessels can leak fluid into the conjunctiva (a thin membrane covering the white part of the eye), leading to a build up of fluid within the conjunctiva (oedema). This causes the eye to appear swollen as well.

Symptoms of the nose include primarily sneezing and a runny or blocked nose. A blocked nose is caused by blood vessels becoming wider (vasodilation) in the dividing structure (the septum) between the two sides of the nose – this is a part of inflammation. A person suffering from hay fever symptoms might also notice itching in the nose, the top of the mouth, and in the middle ear (these structures are all linked). They might experience headaches brought about by blocked sinuses and sinusitis because of increased mucus production.

In very severe cases, hives or a skin rash may become apparent. This is very rare.

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