Hay fever is a reaction to pollen, which the immune system of the hay fever sufferer registers as an external threat, breathed into the body. Your body then produces histamine, which triggers any of the typical allergic symptoms of inhaled irritants:
- itchy eyes, nose and throat
- runny nose
- blocked sinuses
- tight chest and wheezing
- drowsiness and disorientation
Pollen and plants
Pollen is produced by plants and it becomes airborne, so the male part of the plant in pollen can meet with the female part in flowers and tree cones. From early spring through to autumn, various pollens from trees, grasses and weeds kick in to cause hay fever.
How to manage your hay fever
Use a 3-way strategy to keep your hay fever symptoms to a minimum.
- Cover up the parts pollen can reach:
Pollen is breathed in through the nose and mouth and it comes into contact with your eyes. Try to prevent the pollen from getting in to your eyes by wearing sunglasses outside, preferably ones that also cover the sides. To prevent breathing in pollen, use a barrier like Vaseline or aloe vera gel to line the edges of your nostrils.
- Try to prevent coming into contact with pollen in the first place:
Stay indoors as much as possible in hay fever season and keep windows and outer doors closed when the pollen count is high. Pollen is lower near the coast and in inner-city areas, so when possible take a trip somewhere with lower pollen.
- Get rid of pollen as soon as you get inside:
Shower or bathe to wash off pollen on your body. Wash your clothes, brush your coat/jacket (preferably after you wrap a scarf or cloth round your mouth).
Most frequently used hay fever medication.
Symptoms of hay fever are set off by histamine, which is produced by the immune system in an allergic reaction to pollen. You can buy over-the-counter antihistamine tablets from any chemist, and most supermarkets. Also eye drops, nose sprays, gels and creams.
Some antihistamine meds cause drowsiness – as hay fever can itself make you feel sleepy, use the non-drowsy variety during the day. Taking the regular kind before you sleep, if hay fever is likely to keep you awake, can be doubly useful.
- Corticosteroids – nasal and oral
Corticosteroid nasal sprays can be obtained on prescription to relieve hay fever symptoms like an itchy, inflamed and runny nose. Their use is generally considered safe and not harmful for prolonged use. When taken in tablet form, corticosteroids are only recommended in extreme cases of allergy and in the short-term. Long-term use can cause serious health complications like cataracts and osteoporosis.
Hay fever, allergy and air quality
When air quality is poor, allergic reactions can proliferate. When the air has a high pollen count, hay fever occurs. Other breathed-in substances like house dust, house dust mites and pet dander can also cause allergic reactions like asthma. Outside, traffic pollution can exacerbate these conditions. A reliable health-tracker app like AlliApp can keep track of all your possible allergy triggers, helping you record your air quality, as well as all you eat, your moods and your symptoms, wherever you go.