Our pharmacists provide their top tips below on managing hay fever symptoms.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is a common allergic reaction to pollen. An allergy occurs when a person's immune system reacts to substances called allergens in the environment that are harmless for most people. Pollen is an allergen in the form of a fine powder that originates from plants. The condition of hay fever arises where a person, who is sensitive to pollen encounters pollen. This causes an allergic response in the lining of the nose and in the eyes, triggered by histamine release. Histamine is a chemical found in some of the body’s cells. It is responsible for hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, a congested or runny nose, hives and itchy watering eyes.
When is hay fever most common?
Hay fever commonly starts in childhood and adolescence but can occur at any age.
Hay fever is usually a mid-summer problem, but it can start as early as March and continue until early autumn. The time of year in which symptoms occur reflects the type of pollen that is circulating at that time. Grass pollen is the most common allergen, which peaks in mid-summer. Hay fever symptoms are generally worse on dry, warm days when the pollen count tends to be higher.
If you experience hay fever symptoms throughout the entire year, you may be suffering from perennial allergic rhinitis. Causes of perennial allergic rhinitis can include dust mites, mould spores or animal dander. Speak to your pharmacist or GP if you think you might be suffering from perennial allergic rhinitis.
What are common hay fever symptoms?
The most common hay fever symptoms include:
- Itching in the nose, throat, roof of the mouth and eyes
- Blocked (congested) or “runny” nose
- Headache-sinus pain
- Red and watering eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- Cough and occasional wheeze
- Swollen upper and lower eyelids
- Reduced sense of taste and smell
How can I manage my symptoms?
There is currently no cure for hay fever and unfortunately you can’t prevent it but there are some things you can do to ease your symptoms:
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- Put Vaseline around your nostrils to help trap the pollen
- Wear a hat and sunglasses that wrap around to reduce the amount of pollen that reaches your eyes
- Shower and change your clothes after being outside
- Stay indoors when possible
- Monitor pollen forecasts daily and try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high. You can check the pollen count daily on here
- Avoid drying clothes outside, particularly if the pollen count is high
Thankfully, there are also many OTC preparations available that can help to provide relief from hay fever symptoms. Some options include:
- Oral antihistamines, which block the histamine effects experienced in hay fever. They reduce all symptoms associated with hay fever and tend to work within a few hours e.g. Cetrine Allergy Tablets
- Steroid nasal sprays, which dampen down the immune response to pollen and treat all symptoms associated with hay fever. Their anti-inflammatory activity relieves hay fever symptoms in the nose and eyes. They are suitable for adults aged over 18 years e.g. Flixonase Allergy Spray
- Medicated eye drops can help to reduce itchy, watering eyes commonly experienced by hay fever sufferers e.g. Opticrom Eye Drops.
- Hay-Band is an acupressure band designed to be worn around the elbow, which can help to reduce hay fever symptoms in some people. It is suitable for use in adults and children over 3 years of age. It is not suitable for use in pregnancy.
Your pharmacy team may ask you several questions in order to establish the best product/products to manage your symptoms. Some of these medicines may not be suitable for you, if you take other medicines or if you have other medical conditions.
Many people find ‘over the counter medicines very effective in managing their symptoms. If your symptoms are more severe and ‘over the counter medicine options aren’t relieving your symptoms, one of our doctors from our Allcare Online Doctor Service may be able to provide you with prescription medicine that you might find more effective.