Managing Hay Fever this Summer
"A gentleman asked if there was anything I could recommend for his hay fever. His daughter was getting married in a couple of weeks and he didn’t want to be sneezing as he walks her down the aisle."
Hay fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis) is one of the most common allergic conditions in the UK. You can get hay fever at any age, and Allergy UK estimate that nearly 18 million people suffer with hay fever in the UK. You are more likely to develop hay fever if you have a family history of allergies, asthma or eczema.
Hay Fever Symptoms
Typical symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes.
Hay fever symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, mould spores or dander (particles of animal skin often from Cats & Dogs) that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.
Types of Pollen & Allergens
Different types of pollen cause hay fever at different times of the year:
- Tree pollen during spring
- Grass pollen during the end of spring and early summer
- Weed pollen late autumn
- Mould spores
- Dander (particles of animal skin)
According to the UK Met Office, different trees will produce different levels of pollen at slightly differing times in the year;
- Ash (Fraxinus) – pollen released between early March and late May, peaking between early April and early May
- Birch (Betula) – pollen released between early March and mid-June, peaking between late March and mid-May
- Elm (Ulmus) – pollen released between early February and late April, peaking between early March and early April
- Hazel (Corylus) – pollen released between early January and late April, peaking between mid-February and mid-March
- Oak (Quercus) – pollen released between late March and mid-June, peaking between late April and early June
- Pine (Pinus) – pollen released between early April and late July, peaking between early May and late June
- Yew (Taxus) – pollen released between early January and late April, peaking between late February and late March
- Willow (Salix) – pollen released between early February and early May, peaking between early March and early April
The most effective way to manage your symptoms is to avoid exposure to pollen; this is tricky to do, especially during the summer months when you want to spend more time outdoors.
"What medicines are available to treat hay fever?"
Hay Fever Remedies & Treatments
While there is no cure for hay fever, most people can manage their symptoms using over the counter medicines.
Medicine options for hay fever include:
- Antihistamines which can help prevent an allergic reaction from occurring
- Corticosteroids which help to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Decongestants which help relieve congestion.
Over the counter medicines to treat hay fever symptoms are available as tablets, eye drops and nasal drops and sprays. Your local pharmacist and their team will be able to recommend the most appropriate product(s) for you depending on your symptoms. For example, if your main symptom is red, itchy, watery eyes, eye drops may be the most appropriate medicine rather than taking tablets.
"Apart from medicines, is there anything else I can do to help my hay fever symptoms?"
Other Hay Fever Treatments
Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly or a special balm to the rim of the nose may help prevent pollen entering the nasal passages. Cleansing nasal sprays/washes may also be of use as they may enhance the action of medication and moisturise nasal passages.
You can also reduce your hay fever symptoms by taking some simple precautions:
- Have a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors to remove any pollen
- Wear wraparound sunglasses when you are outdoors to stop pollen getting in your eyes
- Try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high; the Met Office provides a daily pollen forecast.
Even though hay fever doesn’t pose a serious risk to your health, it can affect your quality of life. Some people with very severe symptoms may find that hay fever affects their productivity at school or work.
Visit your local Alphega Pharmacy where your pharmacist will be able to recommend the right combination of medicines and give you advice to help you effectively manage your symptoms.
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