So You’ve Got Hayfever

Between April and August many people will suffer symptoms of allergy known commonly as hayfever.

This affects up to one in ten of the population: approximately one third of this will consult their GP.
Allergy to grass pollen is the most common cause of hayfever in the U.K. Allergies to tree and weed pollens, as well as mould spores also occurs.

Peak pollen counts occur in May for trees, July to September for weeds and mould spores, and June to July for grasses.
Other pollutants such as emissions from vehicle exhausts may increase sensitivity to allergies, and, along with other allergic disorders (asthma, eczema and urticaria), hayfever prevalence seems to be increasing.
Simple preventative measures can be taken to avoid exposure:
1. Avoid irritants such as tobacco smoke.
2. Avoid grass cuttings, picnics, camping, etc.
3. Wear glasses or sunglasses.
4. Before evening (as air cools and pollen descends) bring in washing and close bedroom windows.
5. Keep car windows and tents closed: consider installing a car pollen filter.
6. Observe pollen counts forecast in the media. Shower on returning indoors.

Oral antihistamines have been the mainstay of treatments and the newer ones are less sedating. Indications are that a steroid nasal spray may give better symptom control and has the advantage of being a local treatment with fewer side effects. It is always worth talking to your pharmacist before continuing your old treatment/embarking on a new one.

Patients who suffer from continuous symptoms should be told to use their medication regularly – this is especially important with nasal steroids as they may take a few weeks to work. Many patients manage their hayfever symptoms by using "over the counter" products from the chemist. This may or may not be cheaper than prescribed medicine from a G.P. depending on the product/pack size. Always tell the doctor or pharmacist which remedies have been tried and any other medication being taken.
Cromoglycate can be used as nasal or eye drops to prevent mild to moderate symptoms, and may be particularly useful in children (with little side effects) when used regularly.

Antihistamines should not exceed maximum recommended dosage and care is needed with concurrent administration of other drugs. Cost of one months treatment varies from a few pence to several pounds for a month’s treatment.
Desensitisation injections are reserved for the severely affected patients and require close supervision.

When considering a season-long treatment topical steroids are cheaper than non-sedating antihistamine and have less profound effects on quality of life, examination performance, and ability to work. Time take hearing professional advice and money spent on simple successful treatment is well worth while.

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