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Hay fever is a common condition that can affect up to 1 in 4 people.
Although hay fever is not a serious condition, for those who suffer it can be very unpleasant and affect daily life, as if you had a cold and generally felt a bit under the weather. Read more about hay fever here.
Causes of Hay Fever
The main cause of hay fever is pollen, which can come from many sources including trees, grass and weeds. Some trees release pollen in early spring, so some patients can get “hayfever” well before the traditional grass pollen season. The clue to the cause may lie with the history - if you’ve started symptoms after moving to an area near to trees that cause problems for you or if you get hayfever type symptoms at the same time every year. Another cause of hay fever can be fungi.
Some people can be more at risk of being a hay fever sufferer because:
Read more here about the causes of hay fever here.
How to treat Hay Fever
Before you consider treatment, you should think about prevention. This can have a big impact on symptoms and the effectiveness of any treatments used.
During peak pollen levels, the atmosphere outdoors can be laden with microscopic pollen particles (too small to see) and you need to minimize your exposure to this.
Here are a few tips:
- Keep your home as “pollen free” as possible
- Keep all doors and windows closed. Be especially careful not to leave doors and windows open during the evening- pollen rises during the day and then drops to ground level as the air cools in the evening – this is when it can enter your home through open windows
- Clothing and bedsheets on a washing line will attract pollen particles in great numbers, so if your symptoms are severe, you might want to use a tumble dryer on days when the pollen count is high.
- When you return home, change your clothes straight away and have a shower to wash the pollen out of your hair
- Keep car windows closed and make sure that your pollen filter has been renewed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
- Wearing glasses can help to minimize exposure of pollen to the eyes
- Spending time at the seaside can help because the breeze coming in off the sea usually contains less pollen than inland
- Remember that animals can bring in lots of pollen on their fur.
For some people, these measures alone are not enough to alleviate symptoms completely and they may need to resort to medication. Remember that even if you have to resort to medication, these prevention methods can increase the effectiveness of any treatment and lessen your symptoms.
Please note that the vast majority of patients can get all of the treatment they need from the Chemist and this should be your first port of call.
Hay Fever treatment
- Tablets – These are generally antihistamines. Some older antihistamines can be sedating, although the newer ones are less so. Your Chemist will be able to advise about the most suitable for you. Remember to tell them if you take any existing medicines and they will check for any interactions.
- Nasal sprays – These can be effective, especially if your symptoms are predominantly nasal. They come as either an antihistamine or a steroid spray. However, steroid sprays can take several weeks to achieve full effect and people who suffer regularly should start their steroid spray early in the season (several weeks before symptoms start) and continue until peal pollen levels are over
- Eye drops – Again, available via your Chemist, who will be able to advise on the most appropriate drops for you.
Only in exceptional cases where all of the above methods have failed should patients consult their GP. GPs no longer offer steroid injections because of concerns over osteoporosis but steroid tablets are sometimes given to the minority of patients who experience severe symptoms despite trying all of the other methods – however, steroid tablets can carry significant risks and are not suitable for everyone.
For more information on how to treat hay fever click here.
Word from our GP
“Regular showering and a change of clothing can help to reduce your symptoms!” Dr Preest
Things to remember
- Sea breezes blow pollen inland, so escape to the coast instead
- Prevention is important and should be continued, even if you have to resort to medication.
- Take regular antihistamines
Read our coffee break interview with Dr Geraint Preest on Hay Fever here.