Doctors call it seasonal allergic rhinitis but most of us know it as hay fever and about a quarter of us have suffered from its symptoms.
So what is it? Dr Aarnoud Huissoon, consultant immunologist at Heartlands Hospital, said: “Hay fever is a type of allergy most commonly experienced in the summer months and is mainly caused by grass pollen and tree pollen. The pollens that cause hay fever vary from person to person and in the majority of cases, symptoms of hay fever will be mild. For some though, having hay fever can make summer a misery and significantly affect concentration at work and at school.”
Hay fever can feel like a really bad cold, and symptoms can include:
- Itchy and runny nose and eyes
- Blocked nose and sneezing
- An itchy throat
- Tiredness or irritability
If your symptoms are proving to be troublesome, see your GP who can prescribe medication. Dr Huissoon adds: “Across the Trust, we see 150 to 200 patients every year with the condition. The immunology team runs assessment and treatment clinics to help patients who have hay fever, and we offer advice to patients on what treatments are available. The majority of patients respond well to antihistamine tablets, steroid nasal sprays and eye drops that are used to treat allergy symptoms.”
If you have severe hay fever and these treatments aren’t working, your GP may refer you to an allergy clinic for further assessment and see if you are suitable for pollen immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a treatment that ‘re-trains’ the immune system to develop tolerance to pollen. This type of therapy has shown to reduce the severity of symptoms and can be given to you as an injection into your skin or a tablet that dissolves under your tongue.
Pollen can be difficult to avoid but here are some tips to help reduce your symptoms when the pollen count is high:
- Before you go to bed, wash your hair so that any pollen in your hair does not get on the pillow.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into the eyes.
- Do not smoke or let other people smoke inside your house. Smoking and breathing in other people’s smoke will irritate the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways, which can make your symptoms worse.
- Stay indoors when pollen count is high and keep windows and doors shut in the house.
- If you are going outdoors, avoid walking in grassy areas, particularly in the early morning and evening when the pollen count is at its highest.
For more advice on how to treat hay fever, please visit the Trust’s Allergy and Immunology website at http://allergyandimmunology.heartofengland.nhs.uk/.