A guide to surviving hay fever
Before pollen season arrives we wanted to share some information and advise on controlling your hay fever symptoms to help you cope with the early arrival of pollen season.
We've had the ideal meteorological conditions for pollen synthesis and release after a reasonably mild winter and some recent excellent, warm weather. If you're one of the many millions of people who suffer from hay fever in the UK, the arrival of spring might bring back uncomfortable symptoms.
What exactly is hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, commonly known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. Allergens in the air, such as grass, tree, and plant pollen, as well as mould, can cause it. During the traditional growing season, from May to July, trees and plants produce more pollen, which, along with warmer, more humid temperatures and winds, can cause an increase in our symptoms.
To make matters worse, unseasonably mild winters, warm springs, and dry summers have resulted in more vigorous plant growth and a longer, stronger growing season in recent years. As a result, victims of hay fever can have symptoms from early spring through late autumn.
Who is afflicted by hay fever?
In England, about ten million individuals of all ages suffer from hay fever. This translates to nearly one in every four adults and one in every ten children, and research suggests that the number of people affected is increasing year after year.
What are some of the most common signs and symptoms of hay fever?
Hay fever can have a significant impact on your quality of life, ranging from itchy eyes and a runny nose to sneezing, puffy eyes, and headaches. Hay fever disturbs sleep for more than half of sufferers, resulting in weariness, decreased productivity, and time away from work.
Teenagers affected with hay fever are 40 percent more likely to drop out of school as a result of their symptoms. The good news is that many people's symptoms improve as they age. After a few years, about half of people say their symptoms have improved. Furthermore, 10-20% of persons have total symptom disappearance.
Hay fever has four stages.
It helps to know a little more about how hay fever impacts our body when it comes to living with and treating hay fever symptoms on a daily basis.
- Allergen Exposure
When an allergen (such as pollen) enters the nose, it sensitises the mast cells that lining the nasal tube, causing hay fever. There may be no symptoms at this early stage.
- Response in the early stages
Antibodies on the surface of mast cells react to the allergen, triggering an allergic response that releases chemicals like histamines. When these compounds are exposed to a "invading" allergen, they act on nerves and blood vessels, and it is this self-defense process that causes the symptoms we commonly associate with hay fever.
Irritation and inflammation are caused by the influx of white blood cells into the afflicted area, resulting in congestion.
- Late-phase reaction
Inflammation causes additional histamine to be released over the next 6–12 hours, aggravating symptoms such as itchy, runny nose, eye irritation, sneezing, and congestion.
What is the most effective treatment for hay fever?
Hay fever, if left untreated, may make the summer months unbearable. On days when the pollen count is expected to be unusually high, it's critical to prepare ahead and take a few easy safeguards. While there are numerous over-the-counter and prescription hay fever remedies available, they can be divided into two categories: defence and relief.
The first stage is defence.
Preventative treatments are intended to be used in the early stages of hay fever, as soon as symptoms appear. Tablets containing antihistamines such as Fexofenadine are a common example. These, as the name implies, function by inhibiting the action of histamines, which can exacerbate hay fever symptoms. It's worth noting, though, that some older antihistamines might cause drowsiness.
In contrast to tablets, which can take up to an hour to activate, allergen barrier nasal sprays and nasal gels act immediately in the nose and begin working within minutes. These treatments help to keep allergens out of the nasal tube and successfully protect the body's major entry point - the nose.
Relief is the second stage.
The symptoms get more severe the longer you are exposed to the allergen. As a result, in the later phases of hay fever, the aim is to control and minimise the symptoms so that you can return to your normal routine.
Antihistamines can assist with a runny nose or sneezing, but they aren't as good in clearing congestion. However, corticosteroid nasal sprays such as Dymista nasal spray can assist with a variety of symptoms, including nasal irritation and itchy red eyes, as well as a runny nose, swollen sinuses, and sneezing.
Many hay fever sufferers find that combining medicines that address different stages of their symptoms is beneficial.
Is there anything else you can do to lessen your symptoms?
While it's nearly difficult to avoid pollen throughout the summer, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce your exposure.
- After being exposed to a lot of pollen, take off your clothes and shower or wash your hair.
- Vacuum regularly, preferably with a high-efficiency particle arresting (HEPA) filter in place, by closing windows at night.
- Keep flowers out of the house.
- When the pollen count is high or when cutting the lawn, avoid drying clothes outside as this can carry pollen into the house.
- Avoid walking in grassy, open locations, especially early in the morning and late in the evening; keep an eye on the weather forecast for pollen count information; and avoid going outside when pollen counts are high.