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Hay Fever

Information on symptoms, causes and practical tips

Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever is becoming more and more common in the UK. A large number of the population suffer from it.

This is a direct allergy to pollen, either from grass, flowers or trees. It is normally restricted to the spring, summer and autumn months when the grass is in seed and the flowers, trees and weeds are in full germination mode.

Hay fever treatment falls into two categories:

  • Protection for you while you are out and about
  • Protection within the space that you are in (home, school, office)

Practical tips for hay fever

  • Keep the windows closed whenever possible to reduce the pollen coming in.
  • Keep pets away from your living area during the worst of the season as they bring pollen in on their coat.
  • Dry washing inside so that it does not pick up pollen on the washing line.
  • Shower and wash your hair before bed and leave your day clothes outside your bedroom.
  • Holiday by the sea rather than inland where air is full of pollen.
  • Travel with closed windows and consider using an air purifier for pollen.
  • Wear glasses as this helps to restrict the amount of air reaching the eyes.

What other hay fever treatments are available?

If your hay fever symptoms are severe, there are many antihistamines and steroid sprays available in chemists. If your symptoms are really bothering you, visit your GP.  We offer a range of natural hay fever remedies that can be helpful for mild cases of seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Who is most likely to be affected?

Almost anyone can get hay fever. People can develop it in childhood or adulthood. Some people react only to one type of pollen and others react to many different types of pollens.

Like with any allergy, hay fever symptoms also vary in their severity from mild sneezing to much more debilitating symptoms. These can affect people so much that life becomes very difficult during the summer months.

What are the triggers?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Severity of symptoms is directly related to the amount of pollen in the air and the amount of pollen that the sufferer is exposed to. This can vary depending on pollen count, heat, and time of day.

There are a variety of different types of pollen – you may be allergic to one in particular or more. The main ‘hay fever season’ tends to run from March through to August. These months typically have higher pollen counts. The three main types that people can react to are tree (March to May), grass (May to July) and weed pollens (June to September). The Met Office’s Pollen Forecast is a good resource to help you prepare and manage your symptoms.

Why is hay fever worse at night?

Some people find that their hay fever symptoms worsen at night time. A possible reason for this is the ‘pollen shower’. When warm air rises up from ground level on a summer’s day, it takes pollen with it high into the Earth’s atmosphere. When the air cools down after sunset, it slowly descends again, creating an invisible pollen shower.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can include (but are not limited to):

  • sneezing and streaming or blocked nose and itchiness of the nose, throat and mouth
  • often accompanied by red, itchy streaming eyes
  • coughing or wheeze and shortness of breath can also be experienced and for some people the pollen can bring on asthma symptoms.

Linda Gamlin in The Allergy Bible states that the less common symptoms of hay fever could be:

  • Dryness of the throat if the nasal blockage results in constant breathing through the mouth
  • No sense of smell due to a blocked nose (but nasal polyps can also cause this)
  • A feverish sweaty feeling (but the body temperature is usually normal)
  • Swelling and inflammation of the eyelids, sometimes leading to blistering and ulceration: there is a risk of blindness if this is not treated promptly
  • Recurrent sinusitis
  • Ear ache, a stuffy feeling in the ears, or glue ear
  • Itching in the ears

Some sufferers also experience:

  • Oral Allergy Syndrome (an itchy tingling mouth) from certain fruits, nuts and vegetables
  • A skin rash from pollen falling on the skin (direct contact with the leaves of the offending plants, or with droplets of moisture from them, such as when mowing a lawn or using a strimmer, may also produce a rash)

Even more rarely there can be:

  • Stomach upsets or even colitis (inflammation of the bowel) possibly due to pollen swallowed with food or in the saliva
  • Irritation of the vagina
  • Migraine
  • Kidney inflammation (nephritis), leading to puffiness of the face and hands, and possibly other symptoms
  • Joint pains
  • The last two are probably caused by pollen allergens bound to their antibodies and carried in the blood

References and Information Sources:

The Allergy Bible, Linda Gamlin, Quadrille 2001 p26 and p126.

Please note: Information included in this website is intended for information purposes only and is not to be used as a substitute for consultation with a medical practitioner. Never delay seeking treatment or disregard professional advice because of something you have read on or accessed through our website. 

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