The buds are out, the bees are buzzing, and you're sneezing and wheezing like a champion. However, it may not actually be hay fever that's afflicting you. Hay fever is part of a group of conditions that fall under the heading of allergic rhinitis, an inflammation of the tissues inside the nose in response to various allergens. Hay fever itself responds to pollen, which is airborne and can make its way into indoor spaces as well as hanging out around in parks and gardens. Allergic rhinitis can, however, also be sparked by other allergens — including dust mites, which, for some people, produce some very similar symptoms. So, while dust can't quite cause hay fever, it can cause allergic symptoms. Here's how to tell the difference between seasonal allergies and a dust mite allergy, so you can figure out how best to treat it.
Interestingly, rates of rhinitis have been climbing in the last century, not only in young people (who are often the most vulnerable) but in people in their 30s and older. It's thought that this may be because we're becoming more hygienic as a society; as people have less exposure to allergens in their environment, their immune systems never learn how to register them as safe, causing an allergic reaction. But that's only a theory, and either way, the streaming eyes and sinus misery of rhinitis is pretty unpleasant no matter what the cause. Here's how to tell whether you've got a dust mite issue or a pollen allergy.