This month Heartlands Hospital’s Dr Dyer gives advice on hay fever.
Around 20 per cent of the UK population is affected by hay fever each year. It is a seasonal allergy caused by increased amounts of pollen or dust particles being present in the air. When these particles are inhaled, they cause allergic reactions, such as sneezing, itching of the eyes and swelling of the airways.
Around 90 per cent of sufferers are allergic to grass pollen, with the condition more likely if there is a family history of allergies, such as eczema or asthma. People can experience symptoms at different times of the year, depending on which pollens or spores they are allergic to, but it is usually more prevalent during spring and summer months, as this is when grass produces its pollen.
The easiest way to avoid having an allergic reaction, is to not have any contact with pollen. This can be difficult in summer months, especially when spending a lot of time outdoors enjoying the nice weather. You can still enjoy the summer months by taking a few steps to avoid excessive amounts of pollen, like keeping away from freshly cut grass, changing your clothes after being outside and keeping windows and doors shut while in the house.
Although hay fever cannot be cured, there are effective treatments available to combat the symptoms. Antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays which prevent a reaction, decongestants that help reduce symptoms and steroids to prevent inflammation. There is also a treatment known as immunotherapy that is used to gradually increase exposure to allergens, resetting the immune system to prevent allergic reactions.
Different treatments work for different people, so the best way to decide which would be best for you, is to visit your GP who will be able to advise you. For more information, please visit www.nhs.uk.