Anti-hay fever guide: Causes and remedies

Jul 12, 2010 at 12:20 a.m. ET
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Itchy, streaming eyes? Continual sore throat? Never-ending fits of sneezing? No doubt, you've developed hay fever, and with weather patterns changing, more and more of us are starting to suffer at the hands of this irritating, often debilitating infliction.

Though you may have never suffered it before, the chances are, with Pollen counts constantly on the rise, you will develop it at some point. There may be no prevention, but there are some good cures, both medicinal and non-traditional so there is no reason to surrender to summer discomfort at the hands of Hay Fever.

What causes it?

If you have hay fever and come into contact with pollen or the spores of moulds or fungi, your body produces an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These are usually only released to fight infection, but in this instance your body believes the pollen is harmful so they are released as an innate reaction. This antibody triggers the release of chemicals from cells in your nose, throat and eyes when there is a lot of pollen in the air. One of these chemicals is histamine which triggers the symptoms of hay fever.

We don't suggest you self-diagnose Hay Fever as you don't want to take medicine incorrectly so always consult your GP for proper medical advice. However, if it is determined that you do in fact suffer from Hay Fever, there are a range of treatments available.

Stay indoors

If the pollen count is exceptionally high (and you can easily find out if this is the case through the weather reports on the television or internet) it is often best to stay indoors. The Pollen count is the average number of pollen grains in one cubic metre of air over 24 hours.

If you are a serious sufferer and pollen counts are off the charts, there is little that will prevent you from suffering so simply don't fight it. If you really have to go outside, there are a few simple things you can do that will help stave things off a bit, such as wearing wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes, putting Vaseline on the insides of your nostrils and never hanging clothes to dry outside when the count is high.

Nasal sprays

If your symptons are occasional, you may find a simple antihistamine nasal spray such as Asselstine is all it takes to get you feeling back on track. Decongestant nasal sprays work at unblocking congested noses though, according to Bupa, nasal sprays are best used occasionally as repeated use can lead to 'rebound congestion' where the spray actually causes a blocked nose.

There are plenty of steroid nasal sprays now on the market that can be helpful preventative tools but these are best if used before an attack occurs and some, such as Beclometasone, Budesonide and Fluticasone can be bought over the counter from your local pharmacy. If you need something more powerful, consult your GQ for a prescription steroid nasal spray.

Tablets and eye drops

Both are available over the counter and offer quick fixes if you get caught unawares. Tablets that contain an antihistamine work well to reduce symptoms of sneezing and a runny nose, but are less effective at relieving a blocked nose. Don't forget that some can cause drowsiness though there are plenty of non-drowsy formulas available.

Ask your GP or pharmacist for advice and always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. Itchy or sore eyes are a dreadful side effect of Hay Fever but eye drops that contain antihistamines or sodium cromoglicate can help. Using a daily combination of eye drops and a nasal steroid is an option if you would rather not take tablets.

Immunotherapy

If all else fails, your GP may suggest you try Immunotherapy. The name may sound intimidating but it simply involves being given doses of the pollen to which you're allergic over a period of time, usually via an injection.

Phleum pratense (Grazax) is a new grass pollen vaccine that you take by placing a tablet under your tongue so a great option for those with a phobia of needles. The first dose needs to be given by a specialist but after that you can take the tablets at home. This is a relatively new treatment but worth asking your doctor about if all other methods of treatment are leaving you sneezing.

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Getting a sneeze-free grip on seasonal allergies
Expert advice to take control of your allergies

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