Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects up to one in five people at some point in their life. Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen, which is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.
Common Symptoms of hay fever include:
- frequent sneezing
- runny or blocked nose
- itchy, red or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
- cough, caused by postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose)
Less commonly, you may also experience:
- the loss of your sense of smell (anosmia)
- facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses)
- tiredness and fatigue
Even though your hay fever symptoms may be mild, they can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at school or work.
How to treat hay fever?
Many hay fever symptoms can be controlled with over-the-counter medication at your local pharmacy.
Steroid nasal sprays help to prevent or reduce inflammation in the lining of the nose and some can help to relieve watery eyes.
Antihistamines help to relieve a runny nose, sneezing, itching and watery eyes. Some types of antihistamines make you drowsy and are best taken before bed. Newer antihistamines are less likely to make you drowsy and are a common choice for children and people with milder or occasional symptoms of hay fever.
Decongestant nasal sprays and tablets are used to unblock the nose. They should never be taken for more than a few days at a time.
Eye drops can be used to treat itchy or watery eyes.
Hay fever & asthma
If you have asthma, your asthma symptoms may get worse when you have hay fever. Sometimes, the symptoms of asthma only occur when you have hay fever. These symptoms include:
- tight chest
- shortness of breath
Hay fever symptoms are likely to be worse if the pollen count is high. The pollen count is the number of grains of pollen in one cubic meter of air. The pollen forecast is usually given as:
- low – less than 30 grains of pollen in every cubic meter of air
- moderate – 30 to 49 grains of pollen in every cubic meter of air
- high – 50 to 149 grains of pollen in every cubic meter of air
- very high – 150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic meter of air
Hay fever symptoms often begin when the pollen count is over 50. The pollen count is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months.
When to seek medical advice
You will normally only need to see your Doctor if:
- you can’t control your symptoms with over-the-counter medications, or you have troublesome side effects caused by the medication; or
- you’re experiencing persistent complications of hay fever, such as worsening of asthma or repeated episodes of sinusitis; or
- the pattern of your symptoms is unusual, such as occurring during the winter or only at your workplace (it’s likely that another substance other than pollen is responsible, and further testing may be needed to confirm this).
If you would like to discuss hay fever or asthma then please make an appointment to see one of our Doctors at www.cssdoctor.ie We are here to help you!