Springtime can be misery for people affected by hay fever a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life. Symptoms include sneezing, blocked up nose, sinus discomfort, watery nasal discharge, itchy eyes and tiredness. These symptoms are an allergic reaction to pollen, the fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. The culprits are tree pollen during spring, grass pollen during the end of spring and beginning of summer and weed pollen in late autumn. You can get hay fever at any age, although it usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years. Some people find their symptoms improve as they get older and symptoms disappear completely in around 10-20% of lucky people.
But if you are not one of those and they don’t – what can be done to alleviate your misery? The most effective way would be to avoid exposure to pollen, but it’s difficult during the summer months when we are outdoors. There is no cure, but symptoms can be relieved to a certain extent with treatment and can often be controlled by using over-the-counter medication. Antihistamines can help to prevent an allergic reaction from occurring and corticosteroids (steroids) help to reduce inflammation and swelling. But speak to your GP if your symptoms are really troublesome. For severe and persistent hay fever, there is a treatment called immunotherapy that involves being exposed to small amounts of pollen over time, to build resistance to allergic effects, but it can take many months to work.
Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions often linked to a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema. Seasonal allergic rhinitis, the medical term for hay fever, means inflammation of the inside of the nose. Help yourself by staying indoors if possible when the pollen count is high (over 50 grains per cubic metre of air). If you are outdoors wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes and applying a small amount of Vaseline (petroleum gel) around the base of each nostril helps by trapping pollen grains. After being outdoors some people take a quick shower to wash off pollen. I know from personal experience that many people can also experience hay fever-like symptoms when exposed to allergy-triggering substances, such as dust mites and animal fur.
Sadly my cats are the culprits in my family!