HAY Fever is caused by an allergy to a fine plant powder known as pollen. It can make summer hellish for many people in the UK. Usual symptoms include a runny nose and itchy eyes. While hay fever can strike at any time, certain activities can exacerbate the condition.
According to the NHS, sufferers should avoid the following activities when the pollen count is high:
Cutting grass or walking on grassSpending too much time outsideKeeping fresh flowers in the houseSmoking or be around smoke – it makes your symptoms worseDrying clothes outside – they can catch pollenLetting pets into the house – they can carry pollen indoors
To ease symptoms, the health body recommends the following:
Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollenWear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyesShower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen offStay indoors whenever possibleKeep windows and doors shut as much as possibleVacuum regularly and dust with a damp clothBuy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter
According to Mayo Clinic, medications may help if these quick fixes fail to alleviate symptoms. The health recommends trying nasal corticosteroids.
These prescription nasal sprays help prevent and treat the nasal inflammation, nasal itching and runny nose caused by hay fever.
For many people they’re the most effective hay fever medications, and they’re often the first type of medication prescribed.
Decongestants may also do the drink, said Dr Oz: “Decongestants help clear up a stuff nose by shrinking the blood vessels in the nose to decrease swelling so air can pass through and allow you to breathe more easily.
“They’re also available over-the-counter in pill, nasal spray, and drop form.”
Antihistamines are a popular alternative. As the health site explained, these preparations are usually given as pills. However, there are also antihistamine nasal sprays and eyedrops.
Antihistamines can help with itching, sneezing and a runny nose but have less effect on congestion.
They work by blocking a symptom-causing chemical released by your immune system during an allergic reaction (histamine).
If medication fails to fix the problem, sufferers can also try allergy shots. “Over three to five years, you’ll receive regular injections containing tiny amounts of allergens.
“The goal is to get your body used to the allergens that cause your symptoms, and decrease your need for medications.
“Immunotherapy might be especially effective if you’re allergic to cat dander, dust mites, or pollen produced by trees, grass or weeds. In children, immunotherapy may help prevent the development of asthma,” explained the health site.
Rinsing your nasal passages with distilled, sterile saline (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion too, it added. “Rinsing flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.”
Asthma sufferers in particular should pay heed to the treatment options. Grass pollen increases the risk of attacks, according to Asthma UK.
The charity recommends taking these three simple steps to reduce the risks:
1. Carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every day
Reliever inhalers quickly relax the muscles in your airways and ease your symptoms on the spot – but only for a short period of time. For long term control, start using a preventer inhaler. Your GP can prescribe inhalers if you don’t have them.
2. Take your preventer inhaler as prescribed
Preventer inhalers reduce sensitivity and swelling in your airways, helping stop wheezing and coughing before they even start. Take consistently for best results.
3. Take antihistamine pills and sprays and/or use a steroid nasal spray
There are lots of different medicine options and it’s a question of finding out which ones suit you. See our hay fever treatments page for our asthma nurses’ advice, or ask your pharmacist.
Why does hay fever increase the risk of an asthma attack? “If you are allergic to pollen, then when you breathe it in, your body produces histamine and other chemicals.
“In turn, your body reacts by producing lots of mucus and inflammation, often blocking your nose so you have to breathe through your mouth as well as making you feel itchy and sneeze a lot,” explained the health body.