Tips To Reduce Hay Fever Symptoms
Do you suffer from hay fever and do you have allergies you can’t seem to shake? If so, it’s important to understand the causes, symptoms and treatment options. In this article, we provide expert advice on how to reduce hay fever symptoms, some dos and don’ts and when to seek professional help.
What Is Hay Fever?
Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction that occurs when your body comes into contact with an allergen. The most common allergens include pollen, dust mites, animal dander (shed skin particles) and certain foods. When these allergens enter your body, they trigger a release of histamine and other chemicals in your immune system resulting in several unpleasant symptoms.
Symptoms Of Hay Fever
While not everyone will experience the same symptoms or level of severity, the most common symptoms to look out for include the following:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Itchy nose or throat
- Postnasal drip (mucus running down the back of your throat)
Dos and Don’ts for Reducing Hay Fever Symptoms
Before we talk about treatment options and when to see a medical professional, here are some important dos and don’ts for reducing hay fever symptoms:
- Wash your hands often, especially before you eat
- Shower and shampoo regularly to remove pollen from your hair and skin
- Stay indoors when pollen counts are high
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- Use an air conditioner in your home and car
- Change your clothes and shoes after you’ve been outdoors
- Wear a dust mask when exposed to high levels of pollen
- Avoid using fans, which can circulate pollen
- Rub your eyes
- Wear contact lenses
- Hang laundry outside to dry
- Be in close contact with people who are smoking
- Use scented products such as perfumes, colognes or hairspray
Treatment Options for Hay Fever
If you’re looking for ways to treat your symptoms, there are several over-the-counter and prescription options available. These include:
- Antihistamine medication can be taken orally or nasally to help relieve sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat
- Nasal corticosteroids are sprayed into the nose to treat nasal congestion, runny nose and itchiness
- Oral decongestants can help reduce nasal congestion but should be used only for a short period of time as they can cause side effects such as insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure
- Leukotriene inhibitors can be taken orally to help relieve runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes
For those with severe symptoms, it’s a good idea to maintain better indoor air quality by using an air purifier. Many have been clinically proven to remove airborne triggers, such as pollen.
Pollen And Hay Fever
As mentioned earlier, hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to airborne allergens, with pollen among the most common. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants during their flowering season, spread by the wind or insects to fertilise other plants of the same species. Different types of pollen can cause symptoms at different times of the year, for example:
- tree pollen is usually responsible for hay fever symptoms in early spring
- grass pollen is the main culprit in late spring and early summer
- weed pollen, such as ragweed, can cause symptoms from late summer until the first frost
What About Immunotherapy?
If you don’t find relief from steroids and other treatment options, your GP may refer you for immunotherapy. This long-term treatment involves receiving small amounts of pollen as an injection or in tablet form to help build immunity to pollen over time. Immunotherapy typically starts in winter about 3 months before the start of the hay fever season.
Can Vitamin D Help With Hay Fever?
Vitamin D doesn’t just reduce your probability of developing allergies; it also alters the way your immune system functions. It’s been proven to cleanse the body of allergy symptoms and is integral for properly functioning T-cells which are a vital part of your immune system. So, make sure you get enough vitamin D from sunshine or supplements.
Asthma And Hayfever
If you have asthma, the same airborne allergens that cause hay fever symptoms can also trigger an asthma attack, resulting in even worse symptoms. When hay fever and asthma flare up at the same time, it’s called allergic asthma and since symptoms can be particularly severe, patients who suffer from allergic asthma should always carry an emergency inhaler. Some of common signs and symptoms of allergic asthma include the following:
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness or pain
- trouble sleeping due to coughing or wheezing
If you have allergic asthma, it’s important to see your GP for proper diagnosis and treatment. You’ll likely need a combination of medications to control your symptoms.
How Is Hay Fever Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have hay fever, visit your community pharmacist, like Chippenham Pharmacy & Health Clinic for expert advice. They will ask various questions regarding your symptoms, when they started and whether there is a family history of allergies or asthma.
In some cases, a consultation may include a physical examination to look inside your nose for swelling or redness. They may also use a small mirror to look at the back of your throat. You may get a skin prick test or blood tests to confirm whether you’re allergic to specific airborne allergens.
Pharmacy First For Allergies
Hay fever symptoms can be unbearable, and it’s no wonder more people are turning to pharmacists for expert advice and Chippenham Pharmacy & Health Clinic is no exception. Community pharmacists know all about allergies and can help identify the particular allergen causing your symptoms. They can also prescribe medications or over-the-counter treatments.
The best way to prepare yourself is to think about your hay fever medication earlier than normal. Book a consultation with a pharmacist at least one month before your symptoms would normally start so they can help create a personalised hay fever treatment regime specific to you.
Please note that this type of service may require a fee but it will be money well spent for an allergy-free season!
Skin Prick Test
A skin prick test involves placing a drop of liquid containing a small amount of the allergen on your skin. A needle is then used to prick the surface of your skin so that the allergen can enter. If you’re allergic to the allergen, you’ll develop a raised, itchy bump within 15 minutes.
A blood test involves taking a sample of your blood and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. This type of test is usually only carried out if you have severe hay fever or if skin prick testing isn’t possible.
When To Seek Professional Help
If you’re having difficulty breathing, your symptoms last more than a week or you experience swelling in your face or throat, it’s important to see a medical professional right away as these could be signs of a more serious reaction. In severe cases, hay fever can cause a potentially life-threatening asthma attack so if you experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
- rapid breathing
- difficulty talking or walking
- wheezing that doesn’t respond to your inhaler
- a blue tinge to your lips or fingernails
- a rapid heartbeat
- dizziness or confusion
- fear or anxiety
In closing, hay fever is a common allergy that can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms like congestion, sneezing, itchy eyes and nose, and watery eyes. For most people, hay fever is a minor annoyance that can be managed with over-the-counter medications. However, it can also be quite severe and interfere with daily activities.
While there is no cure, there are several things you can do to reduce your symptoms and some treatment options available, including antihistamine medication. If you are struggling to manage your symptoms, or you’d like to find out if you suffer from hay fever, consult your GP or community pharmacist.
Chippenham Pharmacy & Health Clinic will be launching a new hay fever clinic early in 2023 to support patients throughout the season. Stay updated on this development by reading our blogs or following us on Facebook and Twitter.