Along with the sunshine comes an unwelcome condition for many adults and children. Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one-in-five people at some point in their life.
The symptoms of hay fever are caused when a person has an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.
You can have an allergy to:
- tree pollen, released during spring
- grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
- weed pollen, released any time from early spring to late autumn
Hay fever symptoms vary in severity and your symptoms may be worse some years over others, depending on the weather conditions and the pollen count.The symptoms of hay fever include:
- frequent sneezing
- runny or blocked nose
- itchy, red or watery eyes (also known as allergic conjunctivitis)
- an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
Less commonly, you may experience:
- the loss of your sense of smell
- facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses)
While symptoms of hay fever may be mild, they can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at school or work. If you have asthma, your asthma symptoms may get worse when you have hay fever. Sometimes, asthma symptoms only occur when you have hay fever. Many people find that their symptoms improve as they get older. Around half of people report some improvement in symptoms after several years. In around 10%-20% of people symptoms go away completely.
There is currently no cure for hay fever but most people are able to relieve symptoms with treatment, at least to a certain extent. In an ideal world, the most effective way to control hay fever would be to avoid exposure to pollen. However, this is almost impossible so your best option is to talk to your pharmacist in Grant’s pharmacy who can advise on your best treatment options as discussed below.
Antihistamines treat hay fever by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen (ie pollen). This prevents the symptoms of the allergic reaction from occurring. Antihistamines are usually effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes, but they may not help with clearing a blocked nose.
They are available in tablet form and also as nasal sprays.
You can use antihistamines:
- as an “as-required” treatment – where you take them when you first notice that you are developing the symptoms of hay fever
- as a preventative treatment – for example, if you know there is going to be a high pollen count, you can take them before leaving the house in the morning
Different antihistamine tablets for hay fever include cetirizine and loratadine. A common antihistamine spray is azelastine.
Unlike older antihistamines, these newer types shouldn’t cause drowsiness, although this can occasionally occur in some people.
Corticosteroids (steroids) are used to treat hay fever because they have an anti-inflammatory effect. When the pollen triggers your allergic reaction, the inside of your nose becomes inflamed.
Corticosteroids can reduce this inflammation and prevent the symptoms of hay fever. Corticosteroids are more effective than antihistamine tablets at preventing and relieving nasal symptoms, including sneezing and congestion. They can also relieve itchy, watery eyes. They are most effective if you start using them a couple of weeks before your symptoms usually begin, and work best when used regularly.
Hay fever can cause a blocked nose. A decongestant, in the form of a nasal spray, can relieve this. Decongestants reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in your nose, which opens your nasal passage and makes breathing easier. Nasal decongestants shouldn’t be used for longer than seven days. They may cause dryness and irritation in your nasal passage, and can make the symptoms of congestion worse (this is known as rebound congestion). Just check with your Pharmacist and you will receive the best advice.
Eye drops are available from your pharmacist to treat the hay fever symptoms that affect your eyes, such as redness, itchiness and watering (allergic conjunctivitis). These drops contain antihistamine to reduce the inflammation in your eyes, which will relieve the symptoms. Your Grant’s Pharmacist will direct you to the most effective treatment for your watery, irritated eyes.
Hay fever usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years, but you can get it at any age. The condition is more common in boys than in girls. In adults, men and women are equally affected.
Hay fever is more likely if there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema.
There is a nice non-drug option in Grant’s Pharmacy that many people like to choose as their preferred treatment. It is called Prevalin Allergy spray. The first product of its kind, Prevalin has a unique double action formula that provides fast relief at the onset of symptoms, getting to work in just three minutes (that’s faster than hay fever tablets) and reduces sensitivity to allergens. Prevalin Allergy is drug- and steroid- free and is suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Prevalin Allergy contains a therapeutic oil that acts as a mast cell stabiliser and blocks the release of histamine (the chemical that causes allergic reactions).
Self help tips.
It is sometimes possible to prevent the symptoms of hay fever by taking some basic precautions, such as:
- wearing wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you are outdoors
- change your clothes and take a shower after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body
- try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high (over 50)
I admit, these tips are not really workable – Vaseline rubbed inside the nose is useful too and can help to keep the pollen from being inhaled.
Hay fever does not pose a serious threat to health but it can have a negative impact on your quality of life. People with very bad hay fever often find that it can disrupt their productivity at school or work. Another common complication of hay fever is inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis). This can be quite debilitating and tiring.
While the sun is shining, allow Grant’s pharmacy to help you avoid any allergic reaction to pollen this Spring with the best and cheapest hay fever treatments available. We have a full selection of branded and generic options coupled with free advice to allay any confusion when searching for the best treatment for your hay fever.
Grant’s Pharmacy, The Duffry and Rafter Street Enniscorthy, Gorey, Wexford and Arklow.