Hay Fever

Hay Fever

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is the name given to an unpleasant condition in which there is an allergic reaction to airborne substances which attack the nose, sinus, throat and eyes. It is also known as allergic perennial rhinitis or pollen allergy.

Hay fever tends to begin in childhood and gradually eases with age. It is the most common of all the allergic diseases affecting up to 20% of the population at any given time.

What causes it?

Hay fever is due to an allergy to pollen and its peak incidence occurs when pollen levels are high. This typically happens in May and June. Various forms of plant life produce pollen including grasses, trees, flowering shrubs and heathers.

What are the symptoms?

Some, or all of the following symptoms may be present in a patient who is suffering from hay fever:

  • frequent sneezing and a stuffy or runny nose.
  • eye irritation - the eyes may be very itchy and inflamed. This may be the main complaint for some sufferers and is also called allergic conjunctivitis.
  • coughing.
  • in some cases, a burning or wheezing sensation may be felt in the throat

Persistent sneezing can be a very annoying symptom.

How is it diagnosed?

A diagnosis of hay fever can be made on the basis of physical symptoms alone. However, if you suffer from repeated bouts of severe hay fever, your GP may decide to take skin and blood tests in an effort to ascertain exactly what you are allergic to.

What is the treatment?

Most people who suffer from hay fever on a perennial basis are able to bring their symptoms under control by taking an over-the-counter oral antihistamine, combined with nasal drops and perhaps eye drops.

For more severe cases, it may be necessary to ascertain exactly what the patient is allergic to and special injections of small amounts of the allergy-inducing agent may be recommended to build up a tolerance in the body. Some people may need to be prescribed oral or inhaled steroids for severe attacks.

Can I help myself?

People who suffer from hay fever every year generally have a good idea of what causes it. If you fall into that category, take all the necessary steps to avoid the particular substance which triggers off your symptoms. If that means getting someone else to mow the lawn while you sit indoors, then do exactly that!

If you are planning a day trip on a fine June day it might be better to go to the seaside where pollen levels may be lower due to the effect of sea breezes.

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