What's the deal with Allergies and Hay fever?

Allergies and hay fever are irritating – and in some cases life threatening – problems that tend to seem most prevalent during the spring months. With all the pollen in the air, it's no surprise that people seem to to have allergic reactions left, right and centre during these transitional months (but we’ll get to pollen later). If you suffer from allergies and/or hay fever, you may not even realise what the two maladies actually are. So what are allergy and hay fever, exactly? We’ve outlined their definitions and key distinctions below.


According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, an allergy is an abnormal immune system response to a substance that normally isn’t toxic or harmful to the human body. When we have an allergic reaction, our bodies combat what should be non-harmful substances with inflammation, as if they were toxic invaders.

According to Allergy New Zealand the most common allergic reactions in New Zealand are pollen, dust mites, animals, food (usually peanuts, seafood, milk, egg or soy), insect stings, mould, drugs and latex. Most allergies can be classified into a few different types: food allergens, airborne triggers, insect venom and medication (the only common reaction that doesn’t fit into one of these categories is allergy to latex).

Airborne triggers: These types of allergies tend to float around in the air unbeknownst to us. They include dust mites, pollen and mould spours, as well as dog and cat allergies (we’re allergic to the dander that lives on pets’ fur, rather than the animals themselves).

Food allergens: Allergic reactions to food are growing more and more common. According to Allergy New Zealand, 38 per cent of Kiwis report having food allergies (though the doctor-diagnosed percentage is up to 11 per cent). While any type of food is fair grounds for producing an allergic response, the most common reactions are to eggs, dairy, nuts, soy, wheat, fish, seeds, and shellfish.

Insect venom: Those with allergies to insect venom may have reactions to one type of insect without having any problems with the venom of another. These allergies can be particularly life-threatening, and most people who suffer from these allergies have adverse reactions to wasps and bees.

Medication: Both herbal and prescription drugs can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Antibiotics (especially penicillin) are the most commonly reported medical allergy triggers.

So what is hay fever?

Hay fever is actually a type of allergy that occurs on a seasonal basis. Hay fever is essentially an allergic reaction caused by chronic triggers (usually pollen) during certain times of year. If you develop allergic reactions during the spring due to pollen, for example, you’re experiencing hay fever.


How to treat non-seasonal allergies: If you have non-seasonal allergies (reactions that don’t pertain to hay fever) you may already have medical prescriptions from by your doctor that help you to prevent and control your reactions. However, you might also be able to reduce your allergy problems with these helpful tips:

  • Cover all mattresses and pillows with covers to keep dust mites at bay.
  • Instal hardwood floors in your home – carpets are often breeding grounds for allergies.
  • Keep the sun out with blinds rather than curtains.
  • Invest in an air purifier.

How to treat hay fever: If you suffer from hay fever, on the other hand, you probably only need to make adjustments during certain times of the year. These tips can help:

  • Don’t hang laundry outside to dry, as it can gather pollen.
  • Stay indoors and keep your windows closed. This may mean you’ll need to purchase an air conditioning system if you live in a warm climate.
  • Shower and change your clothes after going outside.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory herbal supplement, such as perilla, fenugreek, boswellia, eyebright or elderflower.

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Do you suffer from any allergies or hay fever?

If yes, what usually triggers it and what measures do you take to minimise the effects?

Sources are common allergens.html is the prevalence of food allergy in New Zealand.pdf