With the pollen count set to rise over the coming weeks, those affected by hay fever are being urged to consult with their local pharmacist about potential treatments.
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, which affects around one in five people in Ireland. While most are affected by grass pollen, pollen from trees and flowers can also be a problem for some sufferers. Symptoms can include a runny nose, watery/itchy eyes, sinus pain, sneezing, coughing and headaches.
Hay fever season runs from April to September, with May, June and early July considered peak season. During pollen season, the pollen count is monitored by Met Éireann and daily pollen forecasts are now available here.
According to the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU), while hay fever is relatively common, the symptoms can have a major impact on people's lives. Aside from the usual symptoms, almost nine in 10 sufferers also report difficulty sleeping.
Furthermore, people with asthma have an 80% chance of also suffering from hay fever, which can increase the risk of an asthma attack.
"Hay fever can make life miserable, especially for people with severe symptoms. It makes life very uncomfortable, sometimes for prolonged periods. That in turn can impact on sleep, productivity and overall levels of happiness.
"Thankfully, there is a range of treatments available which can dramatically reduce symptoms, including antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroid nasal sprays and anti-allergy eye-drops," commented executive member of the IPU, Ann-Marie Horan.
She noted that sometimes, severe cases may require prescription medications. In such cases, pharmacists advise people to attend their GP or allergy specialist.
"On a daily basis during the summer, I see in my pharmacy the negative impact hay fever can have on people's overall wellbeing. The key to treating hay fever is finding the treatment that works for you - there is no one size fits all cure because everyone experiences it differently," Ms Horan said.
She pointed out that pharmacists are highly trained health professionals ‘and can play a significant role' in the management of hay fever.
"Anyone suffering from hay fever should consult with their pharmacist first, who will work with them to choose the best treatment options for them," she added.
The IPU advises people with hay fever to monitor the pollen forecast and follow these tips:
-Keep doors and windows closed at home and when driving
-Apply a little Vaseline inside the nose to trap pollen and stop it being inhaled
-Wear sunglasses, preferably wraparound, which prevent pollen entering the eyes
-Do not mow the grass and avoid working in the garden
-Do not dry clothes outside if possible
-Wash your hair, hands and face when you come back indoors and change your clothes to get rid of any pollen.
As hay fever can be a major trigger for asthma, the IPU also advises asthma patients to ensure they are carrying their inhaler at all times and use as prescribed.