As the weather gets warmer and flowers start to bloom, more than ten million people will be affected by hay fever as summer approaches.
Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, a fine powder released by plants during their reproductive cycle. The running nose, sneezing and itchy eyes are caused by the proteins that pollen contains, these proteins can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become inflamed and irritated.
The reaction can occur in anyone at any age, although it usually starts in children or teenagers. There is also more of a likelihood for development if there is already a history of asthma or eczema.
The pollen count is a measurement of pollen in the air, The Met Office provides a full pollen forecast so a day with a high pollen count can be planned for. The higher the pollen count, the more severe the symptoms.
With one in five people being affected at some point in their life, here’s our top tips for keeping the symptoms at bay during the increased pollen count this summer.
These can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or prescribed by a doctor. They work by stopping a substance called histamine effecting your body. Histamine is a chemical that is released when something harmful is detected in the body, it expands the blood vessels and causes the skin to swell.
In the case of people with hay fever, the body mistakes pollen for something harmful which then releases histamine, in turn causing the symptoms of hay fever. Taking antihistamines prior to being exposed to pollen can help prevent this from happening, or reduce the severity of symptoms if taken after exposure.
Corticosteroids are used to treat a range of conditions and are an anti-inflammatory, they come in a range of different forms including tablets and liquids, inhalers and lotions.
To treat hay fever, steroids work by reducing the activity of the immune system, the body’s natural defence against infection. When the immune system’s functions are reduced, the body will have a lesser reaction to the pollen that it interprets as harmful.
When steroids are taken in doses higher than what your body normally produces, they reduce inflammation, easing the symptoms of hay fever.
Immunotherapy involves being exposed to small amounts of the allergen, in this case pollen, in order to allow the body’s immune system to get used to the allergen. This type of treatment is effective when symptoms do not respond to conventional treatment and are persistent, but the therapy can take months or even years to work.
Wearing sun glasses that cover and protect a large portion of the eyes may stop pollen gaining access to them when outdoors.
Taking a shower and washing the clothes worn outside can remove pollen from the surface of the body and takes the allergen out of the vicinity, reducing or clearing the symptoms.
Although not ideal when the weather is nice, staying indoors when the pollen count is high can greatly reduce the chance of pollen affecting the most at-risk areas.
Petroleum Jelly Protection
Most useful for those who are predominantly affected in the nose and sinus area. Placing a small amount of petroleum jelly at the base of the nasal passage may help to catch pollen before it enters the body, reducing the allergy symptoms.
Speak to your doctor if over the counter treatments do not work, hay fever symptoms are not life-threatening but can have a negative impact on a person’s day-to-day life during the spring and summer months. Sometimes complications may occur, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) or a middle ear infection may develop and you should speak to your doctor if you think you may be affected.
Did you know HMT operates two not-for-profit hospitals? We operate at two sites, Grimsby and Swansea.
St Hughs Hospital in Grimsby – 01472 251 100
Sancta Maria Hospital in Swansea – 01792 479 040