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Hay Fever - Allergic Rhinitis

What is Hay Fever?

Hay Fever is a common allergic medical condition that affects sufferers during the summer. Up to 30% of people are believed to suffer to some extent from hay fever or Allergic Rhinitis.

Many people remain undiagnosed for years because they dismiss their symptoms as being merely a head cold, itchy eyes and/or a running nose. They do not relate the occurrence of their symptoms to changes in their environment.

Severe hay fever attacks may lead to lost school and work days. Hay fever is more common in children but it can affect people of all ages and usually occurs after years of repeated inhalation of allergic substances.

The incidence of allergic disease, such as hay fever, has increased dramatically in Ireland and other developed countries over recent decades.

Symptoms of Hay Fever or Allergic Rhinitis

Hay fever symptoms may include some or all of the following:

  • Excessive sneezing caused by allergen in the upper airways
  • Itchy or irritated eyes including inflammation of the whites of the eyes - Allergic Conjunctivitis
  • Nasal congestion and / or runny clear mucus from the nose
  • A cough caused by postnasal dripping
  • Irritation of the nose which may cause nose bleeds in severe cases
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Itching of the nose, soft palate, and the ear canal
  • Hay fever can be a precursor to other complaints such as sinusitis and asthma. Many people that suffer from such allergies may have difficulties with social and physical activities. For example, concentration is often difficult while suffering an attack of hay fever.

    What Causes Hay Fever?

    The symptoms of hay fever are caused by the body's reaction to different types of pollen and spores from mould or fungi. For reasons that are unclear some people react by producing an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). Normally the body produces such antibodies to fight infection so therefore it is clear that some people's bodies treat pollen and spores as harmful invaders that need to be fought by releasing chemicals such as histamine from the cells in the eyes, nose and throat.

    The main causes are the following:

  • Grass pollen which reaches the highest levels during the summer
  • Tree pollen from such as birch, elder, elm and hazel is prevalent in the spring
  • Ragworth and other weed pollen that is at it's height in the autumn.
  • Fungus and mould spores in the autumn particularly
  • Depending on what they are allergic to different sufferers are at their worst at different times in the year and some people are allergic to a number of different pollens.

    Prevention of Hay Fever

    There is no way to prevent hay fever entirely however there are measures that can be taken to reduce the effects of Allergic Rhinitis.

  • Minimise your exposure to the allergen that triggers your hay fever attacks by keeping doors and windows closed when the pollen count is high. Most weather services issue pollen alerts.
  • Do not mow your lawn and stay away from freshly cut grass or long grass during the summer months.
  • Keep pollen out of your eyes by wearing wrap-around sun glasses.
  • Take a shower after being outside when the pollen count is high.
  • Do not hang your laundry outdoors when the pollen count is high.
  • Smear a thin film of Vaseline inside your nostrils to trap pollen before it reaches your nasal passages
  • Hay Fever Treatment

    Hay Fever Medicines

    There are many proprietary medicinal treatments available over the counter (OTC) or by prescription from your doctor. If you are buying an OCT hat fever medicine that you have never used before please consult with your pharmacist and always follow the accompanying instruction leaflet carefully. Note that some hay fever treatments are not suitable for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

    Nasal Sprays for Hay Fever

    Antihistamine nasal sprays are suitable for occasional sufferers whose symptoms only affect your nose. Decongestant nasal sprays may provide temporary relief from a runny or blocked nose on an occasional basis. Using such sprays regularly can lead to rebound congestion and the spray can cause a blocked nose.

    Steroid nasal sprays are useful in preventing hay fever symptoms, especially a blocked nose however they not so effective once the symptoms are already present. A nasal steroid works best taken before your symptoms have begun and then used on a daily basis throughout the hay fever season. Nasal sprays should be applied even if you have no symptoms so long as the the pollen count remains high. If you don't feel it's controlling your symptoms well then it might be better to stopping using the spray and to consult with your doctor.

    Hay Fever Tablets

    For many hay fever sufferers antihistamines tablets are a very successful treatment. These tablets reduce symptoms of sneezing and a runny nose, but are less effective at relieving a blocked nose. Take particular care to check if your chosen antihistamine tablets cause drowsiness. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice and always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.

    Eye drops

    Eye drops that contain antihistamines or sodium cromoglicate can help hay fever sufferers that have to endure itchy or irritated eyes. Using a daily combination of eye drops and a nasal steroid is a viable option for people that prefer not take tablets.

    Steroid tablets for Hay Fever

    For people that experience severe hay fever that seriously interrupts your life their doctor may prescribe a limited course of steroid tablets. You can use other treatments such as nasal sprays while taking the steroids.

    Immunotherapy

    If all other treatments have failed to relieve your hay fever symptoms, your doctor may recommend immunotherapy. This will involve you being given doses of the pollen to which you're allergic. Your reaction will diminish over a period of time - usually this hay fever treatment is administered by injection but tablet remedies are now also available. There have been some cases of immunotherapy causing serious side-effects however, recent studies have shown that with the oral treatment these are rare. Due to the cost and the lack of clear evidence that oral immunotherapy works as well as alternatives not all experts recommend it for the routine treatment of hay fever.

    How to Cure Hay Fever

    There is no cure for hay fever. Prevention measures and treatment of the condition are the most realistic avenues for most people. Conventional medicine has made some advances in diagnosing the causes of, and treating hay fever however very many people turn to complementary and holistic treatments. Such therapies include Reiki, Kinesiology, CranioSacral, and Homeopathy. If you have tried conventional methods without finding a hay fever cure there are a number of complementary therapists listed on this site that may have the solution for you.

    Disclaimer

    The material and information contained on this site is for educational purposes only. This information should not be interpreted as any form of medical advice. If you are experiencing any medical or health difficulties please consult with your doctor.

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