Battling Hay fever. In need of some helpful tips?
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) season mainly starts from spring through to autumn and affects nearly 18 million people in the UK. Meaning one in five people at some point in their life are affected by this common allergic condition.
What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is a common condition and caused by an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is fine powder released by plants and when these tiny particles come into contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth, they can trigger an immune response. The immune response is due to the body mistakenly believing pollen to be harmful. The body reacts in a number of ways which include itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, a runny or blocked nose and difficulty in breathing. It can be common to have a different reaction to the pollen each year as the pollen can change. One year you may have mild symptoms and the next year you may have a more severe reaction.
Why does it affect my eyes?
Not everyone who suffers with hay fever will have eye problems but some people’s eyes can be particularly sensitive to pollen. This is because the small pollen grains can set off an allergic reaction at the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane covering the whites of the eye. This then causes your eyes to become inflamed. Symptoms include watery, red, itchy, sticky and gritty eyes.
How to best manage your hay fever?
Try to avoid contact with pollen by staying indoors especially when there is a high pollen count. It's advised to try and avoid going out in the early evening and mid morning when the pollen count is at its highest. A pollen forecast can be viewed on the Met Office website.
Wear sunglasses when you are outdoors. Larger or more wraparound glasses offer more protection by blocking pollen and dust but also protecting you from harmful UV rays.
Consider wearing glasses rather than your contact lenses as your contacts can aggravate your eye symptoms.
Bathe your eyes regularly in cold water as a daily routine.
Apply petroleum jelly to your nostrils – this will help trap pollen.
Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove any pollen from your skin and hair. Another handy tip is to try and dry washed clothes indoors rather than outside during the peak pollen season.
Alcohol and smoking may increase allergy symptoms and should attempt to be avoided.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hay fever, it is all about management. However, many people find their symptoms do tend to improve as they get older. Medication is available to use during the pollen season. You can treat your hay fever symptoms with over-the-counter medications from your local pharmacist.
Anti-histamine nasal sprays and/or tablets are one of the best ways to relieve many of the symptoms and should be taken before the hay fever seasons starts for the best results. Eye drops are also available to help reduce the inflammation in your eyes and relieve the itching.
When to seek medical advice?
If for any reason your symptoms don’t improve after using over-the-counter anti-histamines, make an appointment to see your GP or pharmacist. See your optometrist if you are having particular trouble with your eyes.They may be able to recommend other treatments, such as anti-histamine drops or other medications that are only available on prescription.