What is Hay fever?
Medically known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a respiratory system disorder and common allergic reaction to pollen, with over 15 million sufferers in the UK alone. "...Over 15 million people in the UK suffer from hay fever..." Pollen is the fine powder produced by trees, grass, flowers and plants to fertilise other plants. When these tiny particles come into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, they can irritate them and trigger the release of histamine which is an allergic reaction.
Hay Fever Symptoms can include:
Runny or blocked nose
Itchy, red or watery eyes
An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
Cough, caused by postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose)
Although less common, you may also experience
The loss of your sense of smell
Facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses)
Tiredness and fatigue
Depending upon the kind of pollen you're allergic to, you may notice symptoms at different times:
Tree pollen causes hay fever from March to early May
Grass produce pollen from late May to earlyAugust
Other plants can become your enemies as late as October
...While some symptoms may be less common and not as mild, they can interfere with your daily lives and activities such as work and school and disrupt your sleep...
Why does my hay fever sometimes get worse?
Hay fever symptoms are likely to worsen if the pollen count is higher. Weather conditions affect hay fever symptoms as warmer sunshine causes more pollen to be released and higher wind conditions cause the pollen to be carried in the air further and faster. On days in which the wind is low, it’s not as hot or days when it’s wet and rainy; your symptoms will improve as there is less pollen in the air.
Does everybody get hay fever?
No, but hay fever is likely to affect those with a family history of allergies particularly eczema or asthma.
What can I take to help with my hay fever?
If you suffer from any of the hay fever symptoms there is nothing to worry about as in most cases, you can get medication over the counter where you can also speak with a pharmacist who can advise on treatments for you or your children. If you struggle more than most however, and can’t control your hay fever symptoms with over the counter treatment then speak with your GP who can advise you further or other treatments.
...Histamine is a substance released by the body in allergic conditions...
Treatments for hay fever symptoms include:
Antihistamines treat hay fever by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it is under attack. This prevents the symptoms of the allergic reaction from occurring. Antihistamines are usually very effective at treating watery eyes, itching and sneezing but may not be as effective when it comes to clearing a blocked nose. Over the counter Antihistamines include Benadryl, Zirtec and Clarityn. Dr Yasmin Conway advises that antihistamines can cause drowsiness and this is particularly the case with chlorphenamine (Piriton). The newer antihistamines cause less of this effect. If you suffer this side effect yuou should not take the medication if you are driving or operating potentially dangerous machinery.
Corticosteroid Nasal Sprays e.g. Beconase
If you suffer more with nasal symptoms, nasal sprays may be better for you as they have anti-inflammatory effect. When pollen triggers your allergic reaction, the inside of your nose becomes inflamed; corticosteroid can reduce the inflammation and help prevent the symptoms of hay fever. Theses sprays also tend to easy eye symptoms, although it is not clear how. Dr Yasmin Conway advises that it takes several days for these sprays to have a full effect. It can take up to 3 weeks in some cases so it is best to start to use them a few weeks before the hay fever season starts, if you are a regular sufferer. Remember to use the spray each day if you are a hay fever sufferer.
Decongestant Nasal Sprays e.g. Otrivin
Many hay fever sufferers will have nasal symptoms which include a blocked nose. Nasal decongestant sprays can help alleviate a blocked nose as they reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in your nose which helps open the in the nasal passage making it easier to breath. These can only be used for 5 days continually so are best for people suffering intermittent rather than daily symptoms.
Eye Drops e.g. Opticrom
Eye Drops are available from you pharmacist to treat symptoms affecting your eyes such as itchiness, redness, and watering. These eye drops also contain antihistamine to help reduce the inflammation in your eyes, which will relieve the symptoms.
This is a course of tablets containing grass pollen extracts. It is a form of immunotherapy exposing you to small amounts of the substance you are allergic to in order to reduce the allergy. Normally a specialist would initiate this treatment as the specific allergy must first be diagnosed with a positive skin prick test or blood test.
Tips for avoiding pollen:
The pollen count is generally given with weather forecasts. A high pollen count is above 50. During this time, it may help to:
Stay indoors with windows closed as much as possible
Avoid areas where grass is being cut and avoid large grassy areas
Consider wearing wrap-around sunglasses outdoors and even a pollen filter for your car
After being outside it is also worth washing your hair and showering
Don't let hay fever ruin your summer! Speak with your GP or book an appointment today on 020 7638 2999