Expert insight | Hay fever symptoms and solutions

Now that we’re well into hay fever season,  Dr Alan Twomey, Telehealth Clinical Lead, discusses the seasonal allergies, tips that can help with pollen and dust mites, and when you need to speak to a GP.

Allergic rhinitis or “hay fever” happens when the body makes protective proteins (antibodies) to certain substances (allergens) causing the release of chemicals in the nasal passages, eyes or airways. This results in inflammation and irritation.

It can be seasonal and caused by grass, tree or weed pollens (hence the name “hay fever”) early in summer or mold which is common in autumn.

The most common time for hay fever in Britain is from the end of May to July.

The most common time for hay fever in Britain is from the end of May to July, when grass pollen peaks but you might have perennial symptoms due to pet hair, house dust mite, or mold.

Treatment is based on avoiding allergens if possible and using both over the counter and prescription medications – ask your GP about them. In some cases, symptoms are so severe, referral to hospital for immunotherapy is needed.

 

What can help with pollen?

There are several steps that we can take to keep pollen at bay:

  • Pollens often rise with the warmer morning air and come back down in the evenings – try to stay indoors with closed windows at these times.
  • Avoid cut grass rural sites on warm days.
  • Use Vaseline around the nostrils.
  • Don’t dry clothes outside when the pollen count is high.
  • On high pollen days, shower/wash your hair and change your clothes after arriving home.
  • On high pollen days use re-circulated air in the car and close the windows.
  • Us the Met Office app which includes pollen alerts.
  • Saline nasal sprays and sinus rinses, and saline eye drops, are widely available and are excellent for short-term relief in both adults and children.
  • The most effective over-the counter treatment is antihistamines – you can buy non-sedating ones in any supermarket or online.
  • Antihistamines are more effective if taken regularly and some experts suggest starting a week before any pollen season and continuing for the whole season.

 

What can help with house dust mites?

Many people have allergies to the common house dust mite. Signs of this allergy can be common to hayfever. Here are some tips to ease suffering:

  • Use a clean towel on your pillow at night.
  • Remove as much fabric, curtains, and carpets from the bedroom.
  • Hoover the bedroom as often as you can.
  • Wash linen in temperatures above 60 degrees Celsius.
  • Use allergen-proof covers for pillows and beds.

 

When should I speak with my GP?

Some people get eczema or asthma with hay fever and these need separate treatment.  People with hay fever are three times more likely to develop asthma and poor control of one is associated with poor control of the other so you should speak to a GP promptly if you have any problems with your breathing.

If your symptoms are more than a mild nuisance, ask your GP about intranasal corticosteroids which are more effective than antihistamines.

There are nasal sprays available that contain corticosteroids and antihistamines and may be more effective.

 

More information

Go to Allergy UK and look for the factsheets on Hay fever, Living with allergy, and In The Home

Our virtual GP service is always on call for members 24/7/365. Click here for more.

Author: Dr Alan Twomey

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