Monks Park Doctors Surgery's monthly column - May 2019

May 14 2019
Monks Park Doctors Surgery's monthly column - May 2019

Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life.

Hay Fever – Not to Be sneezed At!

Hay fever is an inflammation in the nose which happens when our immune system overreacts to allergens in the air such as pollen. Pollen is a fine powder-like substance released by certain types of trees, grasses and weeds as part of their reproductive cycle and which is spread by insects and the wind. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.

If your symptoms are due to an allergy to pollen you will typically develop hay fever symptoms at specific times of the year. 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 late autumn

Symptoms of hay fever include:

  • sneezing

  • a runny or stuffy nose

  • red, itchy and watery eyes

  • swelling around the eyes

The fluid from the nose is usually clear and onset of symptoms is normally within minutes of exposure. The symptoms can make you feel pretty miserable and have a negative impact on quality of life. It can affect sleep, the ability to work or concentrate at school. The symptoms of hay fever are similar to those of the common cold but they often last for more than two weeks and despite the name, do not include a fever! Asthma and hay fever are closely linked and your GP or asthma nurse may add hay fever treatment to your asthma plan.

The best way to control hay fever is to avoid exposure to pollen although understandably this is extremely difficult in the warm weather when windows are open and you want to spend more time outside.

Self help tips for hay fever

It’s 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’re outdoors

  • taking a shower and changing your clothes after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body

 

  • The Met Office provides a pollen forecast and if the pollen count is high, you can take preventative measures, such as taking antihistamines, before leaving the house.

  • applying a small amount of Vaseline (petroleum gel) to the nasal openings to trap pollen grains.

 

Hay fever can often be controlled using over-the-counter medication from your pharmacist who will advise on which ones are best for you. You can buy antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays which can help with itchy and watery eyes and sneezing and a blocked nose. However, if your symptoms are getting worse and don’t respond to the medication from the pharmacist, speak to your GP, as you may require prescription medication. If you’re a sufferer, hay fever is nothing to sneeze at so make sure you’re hay fever ready!