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Hay fever and seasonal allergies

18 April 2018

Hay fever can be a real nuisance, as I’m sure many of us will agree. However for some people it can seriously affect their ability to undertake routine daily activities such as working, exercising and going out. Helen Culling of Spire Norwich Hospital discusses this common seasonal complaint with Consultant ENT Surgeon Professor Carl Philpott.

What is hay fever?

“Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is an allergic disorder characterised by your body’s exaggerated response to pollen grains and other airborne substances.”

“Typically, people can start feeling the effects of hay fever in the spring, and if this is the case it’s likely they may be allergic to tree pollens. If they experience the symptoms in the summer months, it’s likely that grass and weed pollens may be causing their reactions.”

“Hay fever or allergic rhinitis affects 25% of the UK population and it’s the most common form of rhinitis” 

What causes hay fever?

“Hay fever is a lay term referring to the allergic reaction to grass pollen when it comes in contact with your eyes, nostrils, mouth and throat. Your body identifies the harmless pollen as a harmful agent and your immune system reacts by producing antibodies to the harmless substance. This means that the next time you come in contact with the pollen, your immune system will release chemicals into your bloodstream such as histamine which will cause varying levels of reaction.”

Typical symptoms from hay fever are:

  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose and eyes
  • Runny nose and post-nasal drip
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of productivity

The symptoms can be more severe when the pollen count is high.

Some patients with nasal allergy may also develop chronic sinusitis. Although the allergy isn’t thought to cause the sinusitis, allergy is found to be present in 25-50% of those with chronic sinusitis and make the symptoms of the latter worse.

How to avoid hay fever?

Unfortunately there is no way to avoid hay fever. If you suffer from it, the best thing you can do is avoid being exposed to the allergens that cause your symptoms. Taking over the counter anti-allergy medication is a good way to lessen the symptoms. Although these medications can occasionally have some side effects such as drowsiness, these over the counter medicines often give patients with mild symptoms adequate relief. For more severe cases which cause disruption to your quality of life, visit your GP as there may be stronger remedies to help relieve the symptoms.

Other useful ways to help with symptoms are:

  • Monitor the pollen forecast and avoid going outdoors unless necessary when the count is high. This usually happens on warm and dry days.
  • On high pollen days wash your face immediately when you get home and change your clothes.
  • Avoid drying your clothes outside as pollen might stick to your clothes.
  • Nasal douching (saline irrigation) of the nose can help reduce the accumulation of pollens inside the nose using commercially available kits such as Neil Med or Sterimar.
  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to avoid pollen getting into your system.
  • Clean your house regularly to avoid dust.
  • Avoid cutting grass or spending too much time outside.
  • Try to avoid keeping fresh flowers inside the house.                               

Allergy tests

”One way to find out if you suffer from hay fever is to have an allergy test. At Spire Norwich Hospital you can see a specialist consultant to discuss your medical history and symptoms. Your consultant might recommend additional testing to help diagnosis such as blood tests.”

“If you decide to have your test with us, you’ll be cared for by an experienced multi-disciplinary team who understand what you’re feeling and are dedicated to your well-being”.

For further information on allergies or to make a private appointment with Consultant ENT Surgeon Professor Carl Philpott please contact one of the team members at Spire Norwich Hospital on 01603 255 614. Further details regarding Professor Philpott can be found on his consultant profile at www.spirenorwich.com.

All surgery carries an element of risk and the content of this page is provided for general information only. It should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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