Otherwise known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever is a reaction to airborne substances, such as pollen, that get into the upper respiratory passages – the nose, sinus, throat – and the eyes. The symptoms usually appear in childhood and lessen by the age of 30 or 40.
Perennial allergic rhinitis is a similar allergy to hay fever that occurs all year round and is caused by things like house dust mites and pets.
What causes hay fever?
Often an inherited condition, the most common causes of hay fever are:
- tree pollen (spring hay fever)
- grass pollen (summer hay fever)
- mugwort and hybrids such as chrysanthemums (autumn hay fever)
- house dust mites and mould fungus – particularly associated with perennial allergic rhinitis
These microscopic substances get into your nose and cause your body to produce antibodies and release histamine. Histamine irritates the upper respiratory passages, making them swell and producing those typical hay fever symptoms.
What are the symptoms?
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Frequent sneezing and a bunged up or runny nose
- Itching on the roof of the mouth
- Wheezing or a burning sensation in the throat
What are the risks?
In the long term, hay fever sufferers are more vulnerable to other allergic respiratory diseases, such as asthma. You may also experience sleeping difficulties because of blocked nasal passages and snoring, leading to chronic fatigue. If you suffer from hay fever, it’s important to do whatever you can to avoid substances that provoke your symptoms. If you don’t, you may increase the risk of developing other, more serious allergic diseases.
You’ll never be able to get rid of the allergy itself, but you can control the symptoms. And you’ll find that hay fever is usually more of a nuisance than harm to health, with many people’s symptoms improving over time.
What can I do to reduce the symptoms?
- Try using eye drops, nasal sprays and antihistamine tablets and syrups to treat symptoms
- Keep your windows closed – even at night. This is especially important in the early morning and evening when pollen is released
- If you’re still suffering indoors, a good air filter – like the LloydsPharmacy Ionising Air Purifier – should help
- Put a smear of Vaseline inside each of your nostrils to ease soreness and stop pollen in its tracks
- Try using the LloydsPharmacy Hay fever Reliever along with your usual allergy medicines
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to keep allergens out of your eyes
- Avoid drying clothes and bedding on your washing line when the pollen count’s high
- Keep car windows closed when you’re driving
- Don’t let pets get close to your face as they can carry pollen in their fur