Hay fever. So many people are suffering with it right now – and will be for the next few months, too. But what are the symptoms of hay fever and how can you treat your seasonal allergy? Read on and start taking control of your hay fever today.
Symptoms of hay fever
Hay fever, also known medically as seasonal allergic rhinitis, can produce symptoms similar to that of a common cold. You might get a runny nose, itchy eyes, nasal congestion and sneezing. All this can make you feel pretty miserable. You could even get something called allergic shiners which are characterised by swollen, blue-coloured skin underneath the eyes.
Some of the symptoms of hay fever are similar to those of coronavirus, namely loss of smell, headache, blocked nose and generally feeling unwell. However, there are differences. Watery itchy eyes are common with hay fever, but not with COVID. It would be sensible to get a COVID test if you develop a persistent cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.
Causes of hay fever
Although it mimics the symptoms of a cold, hay fever isn't caused by a virus. Hay fever is usually caused by an allergic response to outdoor allergens like pollen:
- Tree pollen, released during spring
- Grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
- Weed pollen, released late autumn
You’re more likely to develop hay fever if you have a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema. Hay fever affects about one in five people but often improves as we get older and disappears in around 10-20% of people.
Hay fever treatment and tips
There’s no cure, but treatment usually helps. Read on for our treatment methods and general tried-and-tested tips to manage hay fever.
- Police pollen
It is pretty much impossible to avoid pollen, particularly in the summer months. If you suffer from hay fever, you can check the UK pollen forecast to help keep your symptoms at bay. When the pollen count is high, try to stay indoors as much possible. As a rule, 10am-4pm is peak pollen time, but some days can be worse than others. Rain can help to clear away the pollen from the air, so take advantage and get outside after a summer downpour!
If you know you're going to be outside during a high pollen day, you can take medication called anti-histamines. They're available in a variety of different forms. Tablets or syrup, for both children and adults, can be bought over the counter. They're good for itching, sneezing and watery eyes, but often less helpful for a blocked nose. They can cause drowsiness and, occasionally in children, slight hyperactivity. Eye drops and nasal sprays are also available through your local pharmacist and can work quite effectively.
If you'd prefer to opt for a natural approach then look out for Quercetin, a potentially beneficial chemical found in plants that appears to exert a natural anti-histamine effect. There seem to be few side-effects, but safety studies haven’t been done. Good food sources include onions, apples, tea and capers. However, food sources may not give you sufficient amounts, so many hay fever sufferers use Quercetin as a supplement at higher doses during the hay fever season. If you're taking medication you have bought yourself, it’s important to check with your doctor or pharmacist for any possible interactions.
- Protect your airways
Try taking precautions like dabbing petroleum jelly around your nostrils. Or, if you want a natural barrier balm, try Haymax, which is made from beeswax and seed oils. Even a face covering when gardening can help to trap the pollen from entering into your airways. Just make sure you can still breathe!
- Shower and change your clothes
After you've been outside, take a long shower to wash away any pollen residue. Changing your clothes afterwards will make sure you aren't inhaling any more allergens that might've been clinging to the fibres. Also, on the same note - avoid hanging your laundry outside to dry as they can end up harbouring pollen from the air. You might end up sleeping in fresh bedding that's actually covered in allergens.
If all else fails, you can buy steroid nose drops from your pharmacy. They work well for hay fever but they can make your nose dry and occasionally cause nosebleeds. They should be used every day, but for the shortest time possible to alleviate symptoms and just during hay fever season.
For more serious effects of hay fever, your GP might prescribe stronger steroid nasal sprays, or even tablets which are very effective and would probably only be used for a short time. Used like that, they're very safe.
Immunotherapy refers to regular exposure to small amounts of the substance that you’re allergic to. It can be effective in treating persistent symptoms that don’t respond to usual remedies. It's only available at specialist allergy clinics and can take months or years to work. Your GP can refer you to one of these specialist clinics - if you’re interested in trying immunotherapy, call your GP or book a doctor’s appointment through the Evergreen Life app to discuss your referral.
Complications of hay fever
Inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis) is a common complication of hay fever. Children can sometimes develop a middle ear infection (otitis media). Hay fever can make your asthma worse. If you have asthma, stock up on your sprays before the pollen season starts.
How the Evergreen Life app can help:
- Share your GP record with your pharmacist. If you choose to share your record using Evergreen Life’s Trusted Access feature, this allows your pharmacist to see all the other medications you may be taking and any health problems you may have. That means they can avoid any interactions with other medicines and other problems. That makes buying medicines over the counter much safer. You can see how to use Trusted Access in the app here.
- Put all the medicines you buy over the counter into your app. You can easily scan in information about your medicines. Go to health record, then medications, then add a new medication, then SCAN.
- Record in your app all those health problems for which you didn’t go to your GP. That way, you can keep everyone up to date when you share. With the pharmacist, for instance. Go to records, then personal records, where you can add things like allergies, intolerances, additional medications or conditions not discussed with your GP.
- Share your app with your GP when you attend. Then the GP can see all the medications you bought and are using as well as any illnesses that you've managed yourself. Again, it makes for safer care.