Hayfever Hayfever, or to give it its clinical name - allergic rhinitis - affects many thousands of people across the UK. Triggered by an allergy to pollen, the condition causes inflammation of the nose and throat linings. The first step to treating the condition is to make sure that it is hayfever you are suffering from and not other allergens in your home or workplace. With the right treatment you can escape the itchy eyes, sneezing and sore throat that comes with the spring and summer months.
What are the symptoms? • Itching and runny eyes and nose How do I find out what I’m allergic to? Monitoring and recording when your symptoms first appear can go some way to diagnosing which pollens you might be allergic to: • March and April - Tree pollens (silver birch, London plane, ash or willow) tend to strike first • May and July - Marks the start of pollination for grasses (timothy, rye and fescue) or weeds (dock, nettle or plantain) • July and August - Mould spores are the last to appear What are the pollen level reports I see on weather reports? Hayfever affects so many in the UK that weather reports are now including pollen level counts to help suffers during the summer months. Pollen levels are given as a pollen count (typically ranging from one to ten), and keeping an eye on these will help you manage your own hayfever symptoms. Pollen counts tend to be higher on warm, sunny days with a stable high pressure weather system. They may start off at low levels but as the morning dew evaporates from the ground they start to rise. Counts can sometimes drop off during the day as hot air rises quickly but come evening they rise again as the temperature drops. Many people think that people living in more rural areas suffer more than those of us living in cities and towns. More often than not it’s actually the reverse as traffic fumes and other pollens in built up areas cause further irritation. How do I treat hayfever? Depending on your symptoms there are a number of ways hayfever sufferers minimise the effect it has on day to day life. Staying indoors on days where the pollen count is higher is an obvious solution, as well as keeping windows and doors shut where possible. When you do go out, wraparound sunglasses will help to minimise some of the effect pollen has on the eyes. You can also look to get pollen filters for your car, and Vaseline around the nostrils will trap pollen and help protect you. Eye drops and nasal spray are popular treatments for runny eyes and noses, but by far the most popular treatment sufferers turn to are antihistamine tablets. The key to using
antihistamines to effectively manage your hayfever symptoms, is to make sure you choose the right one and start taking them early. Some make you drowsy, which are fine to use at night but not during the day when managing a busy workload! The best advice is to be sure to read the packet, and talk to your pharmacist for advice. An alternative I have found recently is the herbal remedy butterbur. A recent British Medical Journal study showed it to be as popular as traditional antihistamines, with the added bonus of not causing drowsiness. Personally it has proved to be really effective among some of my patients. If none of these treatments and precautions seems to be helping, book an appointment with your GP who will be able to discuss alternatives and may even suggest a referral for immunotherapy.