What is hay fever?
Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis or hay fever is a common problem in the UK. Symptoms are similar to that of the common cold. These include sneezing, itchy eyes, a blocked or runny nose, headaches, poor concentration and a general feeling of being unwell.
Hay fever can have a detrimental impact on quality of life, work and exam performance. A study showed that school children with hay fever drop a grade between mocks and final exams in the summer if they are taking a sedating antihistamine. In addition to this, hay fever is a risk factor for the development of asthma, food allergy and eczema.
Hay fever treatment
The following information will act as a guideline to help you improve your management of hay fever.
The first step to managing an allergy is avoidance, however, avoiding grass pollen (the substance that causes hay fever) is not feasible.
The following measures can be helpful:
- Monitor pollen forecasts daily so that you can prepare for high pollen days.
- During the hay fever season (this is usually from the end of March to late August in the UK) take hay fever treatment such as antihistamines (preferably non-sedating) and use your nasal spray everyday even if you are not experiencing troublesome symptoms.
- Learn how to use your nasal spray correctly. If in doubt speak to your local pharmacist or nurse.
- Applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollens to prevent a reaction.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen allergens out of your eyes.
- On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair to remove the trapped pollen after arriving home and change your clothing.
- Keep windows closed when indoors, particularly in the morning when pollen is being released, and in the evening when the air cools and airborne pollens falls to the ground.
- Avoid drying laundry outdoors when pollen counts are high.
Common hay fever treatments that suppress the symptoms
Antihistamines block the production of histamine, the chemical in our body that causes the symptoms of hay fever.
Hay fever treatments, such as antihistamines are available as tablets and liquids for children. Be sure that the antihistamine you are taking is non-sedating as this may affect your concentration and ability to drive. For many people this form of hay fever treatment can be all that is needed if your symptoms are mild.
If the first antihistamine you try does not provide you with enough symptom relief see your GP to discuss trying another medication.
More troublesome symptoms require the regular and effective use of a steroid nasal spray in addition to an antihistamine. Ask your pharmacist to demonstrate the correct use of your nasal spray. There are many different types of steroid nasal spray and you may need to try more than one to find the best hay fever treatment for you.