Hay fever – What is it?

November 12, 2012

Hay fever – What is it?

Hay fever is a type of seasonal allergic rhinitis caused by pollen or spores. Allergic rhinitis is the name given when something causes an allergic reaction and affects the inside of your nose causing inflammation. Hay fever is prevalent in children and teenagers but anyone can get it. It affects the nose, sinuses, throat and eyes, causing sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes.

Hay fever is an allergy caused when your body makes antibodies in response to certain triggers, such as pollen states John Collard, clinical director of Allergy UK.

Hay fever – What causes it?

The weather and the seasonsare major contributors to the cause of hay fever. The generally accepted times to get hay fever are from April to October, however it is not unheard of to have cases in March or November. It’s more probable that hay fever sufferers will be affected on days which are dry and hot and will probably have a breeze or wind. Cool or cold days with rain are good days for hay fever sufferers. Air pollution in any form can make hay fever worse in some people. Common forms of air pollution are car fumes and cigarette smoke.

The part of the country you live in has a say in when you could be affected. In the south some trees start to release pollen in April, further north it can be a few weeks or a month later. Grasses and flowers release their pollen around June and shrubs can be later in the summer. Again further north will probably be a little later and may be a lot less because of cooler and wetter days being the norm in that part of the UK.

The main pollen to affect people in the UK is grass pollen. But the pollen varies between the regions as does people’s resistance to certain pollens. The majority of people in one region may react to pollen which does not have the same effect in another region. It is not just grass pollen, there are trees, weeds, shrubs, in fact almost any plant and don’t forget the mould spores too.

Reducing the likelihood of getting hay fever

Twenty percent of the population of the UK suffers from hay fever, or has suffered at some time. Genetics may have something to do with it because it has been discovered that if parents have allergies then their children are more likely to have allergies too. Although it can be a different allergy. Smoking around young children has also been found to increase the chances of the child developing an allergy. A healthy diet can increase your chances of being allergy free.

Because pollen is the major cause of hay fever it makes sense to avoid exposure to it when trying to reduce the likelihood of getting hay fever. Do not go near large areas of grass, that is don’t sit in a field of long grass or mow the lawn. If the pollen count is high then stay indoors if you can, make sure that your windows stay shut. Wear sun glasses and some people say that a little petroleum jelly inside the nostrils helps.

Avoid smokers, furry animals, insect sprays or anything that you know is going to irritate. Ensure that you wash your hands and face regularly, this ensures that no pollen is resting around your eyes and nose.

Treatment

Before talking about treatment it is best to explain that avoiding the triggers for the allergy is a much better option. However because pollen can be very common, and very hard to avoid, for a few months of the year we must look at treating the allergy.

A large range of over the counter remedies have developed over the years. These treatments can be tablets, creams, eye drops and nasal sprays. Your doctor may prescribe steroidal inhalers if you are finding the allergy particularly hard to deal with. There are reports of hay fever sufferers developing asthma. If you are already an asthma sufferer then hay fever can aggravate your condition. If this happens to you then a visit to the doctor may be required.

Antihistamines are common when managing the main symptoms, such as itchy eyes and runny nose. Nasal problems can be treated with steroid nasal sprays, although some treatments are not suitable for pregnant women. In pregnant women the hormonal changes to the body can exacerbate the symptoms of hay fever. In these cases medical advice may be needed.

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