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Ease your hay fever symptoms this allergy season

Hay fever symptoms

Did you know, hay fever is one of the most common seasonal allergies and affects around 13 million people in the UK alone? Early spring and summer are usually the times of year that hay fever is at its worst, mainly because of the warm and humid weather, and it’s when the pollen count reaches its highest during the year.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever, also known as ‘allergic rhinitis’ is an allergy caused by pollen spores (a fine powdery substance consisting of microscopic grains that plants make to reproduce). The allergic reaction occurs when pollen comes into contact with either your nose, mouth, eyes or throat. Pollen spores are small, light and dry, so the wind can easily carry them into our faces and noses!

According to Allergy UK, between 10% and 30% of adults suffer from hay fever, along with 40% of children.

What are the different types of pollen allergy?

  1. There are hundreds of different grass types and this is why grass pollen is one of the most common types of allergy - people are normally affected in May to July.
  2. Tree pollen pollinates from late March to mid-May. Around 20 per cent of hay fever sufferers are allergic to tree pollen. Watch out for birch, alder, hazel and horse chestnut trees in the UK as they are most likely to cause problems with allergy sufferers.
  3. Weed pollen is probably the least common, but allergies still occur in some hay fever sufferers. The season runs from the end of June until September.

Hay fever symptoms

The severity and side effects of hay fever symptoms are similar to a common cold, however, they change from person to person and often include:

  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Red, itchy eyes or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Itchy ears, nose, throat or mouth
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Feeling tired
  • Can be ongoing and long term

Complications of hay fever

Hay fever can cause a variety of symptoms for sufferers and your immune system will react against the allergens, sometimes reducing your quality of life, resulting in time off school or work. Hay fever can lead to additional complications such as sinusitis and middle ear infections.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses which are cavities located behind the cheekbones and forehead. As you can imagine, this can be very uncomfortable when inflamed, causing pain and tenderness in the face. Hay fever causes swelling of the nasal passage which can create a build-up of mucus in the sinuses, this can make you more vulnerable to infection.

Middle ear infection (otitis media)

Middle ear infections are caused when the Eustachian tube is blocked by a build-up of mucus. This infection is more common in children who suffer from hay fever because their Eustachian tube is smaller than an adult's and can become blocked more easily.

Hay fever relief

Antihistamines are the most effective way to control the allergy symptoms of hay fever. These are usually available at pharmacies without a prescription. Nasal sprays and eye drops can also help give relief for some of your symptoms.

Can eating local honey cure your hay fever?

You may or may not have heard this theory, but it’s thought to be a successful way of managing hay fever. They say that eating local honey can eventually ease your symptoms of hay fever because you’re exposing yourself to the pollen used to make the honey which could strengthen your tolerance.

However, this hasn’t been scientifically proven and you may have to wait until you’re older, around 10-20% of adults have reported their symptoms completely disappeared after several years!

Here are a few ways you can manage your hay fever symptoms:

  • Limit your exposure to pollen, stay indoors when the pollen count is high
  • Keep windows and doors closed
  • Keep dust at bay in your home by hoovering and dusting regularly, this helps prevent indoor allergens
  • Vaseline around your nostrils can help trap pollen
  • Wraparound sunglasses can prevent pollen from getting into your eyes
  • Change your clothes and shower at night after you have been outdoors to remove any pollen
  • You can also buy a pollen filter for your car air vents
  • Stop smoking. Smoking can irritate the lining of your airways and make your allergy worse.

If hay fever is affecting you severely and antihistamines have not worked, then book in to see your GP to discuss your symptoms and concerns. They may do some allergy testing and can give you some advice on how to manage hay fever.

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