What You Need to Know About Hay Fever

It is estimated that hay fever affected approximately 13 million people in the UK last year. Hay fever is one of those illnesses that can cause sufferers no end of discomfort and inconvenience, especially during the summer months. The good news is that, working alongside a general practitioner, there are now numerous ways of treating this condition, and MedicSpot can help put you on the path to easing those symptoms.

What is hay fever?

To understand the ways in which hay fever can be treated, it’s important to first know what the condition is and what causes it.

Hay fever is actually an allergic condition that is caused by your body having an allergic reaction to some types of pollen. Pollen is released by all types of plants and trees as part of their reproductive cycle.  This means that those suffering from hay fever most commonly experience symptoms during the spring and summer months when plants and trees come to bloom.

The pollen itself is a very fine powder that can cause considerable irritation when it comes in to contact with a sufferer.  Pollen becomes airborne, particularly in the mornings and again at dusk – this is why some sufferers complain of extreme symptoms first thing in the morning and in the early evening.

It is also worth paying attention to the weather forecast which commonly now gives a pollen count for the days ahead. When the pollen count is high, then warm, humid and windy weather conditions may worsen symptoms for many sufferers.

The pollen can cause inflammation and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and sinuses.  Often, sufferers will inhale the pollen without realising.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

Hay fever is known to cause a range of symptoms in sufferers, and sometimes trigger other conditions.

Some of the most common symptoms to look out for if you think you may be suffering with hay fever include:

    Runny or blocked nose

- Itchy eyes which may become red and watery
- Tickly throat
- Itchy nose and facial areas, include mouth and ears
- Blocked or painful sinuses
- Sneezing and coughing

In addition to these, some sufferers may also develop headaches, earache and pain around their temples or forehead.  As a result of the symptoms, sufferers will often become tired as well, meaning that if left untreated, hay fever can thoroughly ruin your summer.

There are also potential further issues when hay fever affects those who have other conditions such as asthma and eczema.

Hay fever can often trigger asthma for those people unfortunate enough to have both, and asthma sufferers may then find themselves wheezing and coughing throughout the day as well.  Shortness of breath and a tight feeling in the chest may well accompany this.  You should seek medical attention quickly if you find this happening to you.

Eczema sufferers can also notice hay fever as being a trigger for flare up in their eczema, often brought on by the itchiness caused by the allergic reaction to pollen which then further inflames already sensitive skin when itched.

As with any allergic reaction, the severity of the symptoms suffered by people can vary considerably.  Furthermore, even if you’re living in the same house as someone else with hay fever, you may both experience symptoms at different times of the day, or even year.

Thankfully, despite the long list of symptoms and the seasonality of hay fever, there are several treatment options available, and speaking with your GP or visiting the pharmacy can get you on the way combatting hay fever.

Preventing hay fever

Before getting in to the medical treatments of hay fever, there are also some things you can do during hay fever season (generally speaking, March until September) to reduce your exposure to pollen.

While it is hard during the summer months when the weather is warmer, if you’re aware that the pollen count is going to be particularly high, you should avoid spending time outdoors when possible.  This includes cutting the grass, playing sports and even being careful of where and when you walk the dog.

If you are heading outside, then try to wear sunglasses, and is possible grab a pair of wrap-around glasses that are close to your face to prevent the pollen getting in to your eyes.  Additionally, be careful about drying clothes outside – they can trap pollen which you will then come in to contact with when you next wear the clothes.

Other things to try are fitting pollen filters on to air vents in the car and on to your vacuum cleaner and keep your doors and windows closed when possible if you know that pollen counts are high.

Treating hay fever

While we can treat hay fever to ease the symptoms, it’s important to be aware that there is currently no cure available. Some people may naturally stop experiences the symptoms of hay fever when they reach a certain age, or through periods of their life.

The most-effective way to ease the symptoms of hay fever is to use some antihistamines which can prevent the allergic reaction from occurring, or at least lessen the severity of it.  You’ll want to start by trying some over-the-counter medication available from your local pharmacy. Common anti-histamine tablets such as cetirizine, loratidine and chlorphenamine are available without a prescription from your local pharmacy.  Whilst these are often advertised as non-drowsy; they can all make you slightly drowsy due to how they work.

Depending on the nature of your symptoms, eye drops to stop your eyes being itchy and steroid nasal spray to help with the nasal symptoms of hayfever can also be provided by your pharmacist.

What can a doctor do for hay fever?

For the vast majority of hay fever sufferers, these over-the-counter remedies will sufficiently ease the symptoms of hay fever, but if your symptoms are not controlled by these measures – you should see either your own GP or a MedicSpot GP so you can be helped.  The doctor may find it necessary to prescribe a stronger prescription only antihistamine such as fexofenadine or even prescribe a short course of steroid tablets such as prednisolone if your symptoms are particularly bad.

If despite these measures and you are still having a horrible time in controlling your hay fever; a GP can refer you to a specialist allergy doctor who can perform allergy testing and possibly prescribe a medication called Grazax.  This is a form of immunotherapy that exposes the sufferer to small amounts of pollen over a long period of time so that the body gets used to grass pollen.  However, this should be considered only as a last resort once all other avenues have been tried.