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Dr Christian: Hay fever season is here

31st May 2019

The start of British summertime sees most people fleeing to their nearest beer garden and throwing BBQs for anyone who’s available. But for those who suffer with hay fever, the season can be bittersweet.

What is hay fever?

The official name for the condition known as hay fever is allergic rhinitis, and it causes symptoms similar to those of a cold; a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and congestion. But while the common cold is caused by a virus that tends to stay in the body for 3-7 days, hay fever is caused by an allergy and lasts as long as you’re exposed to the thing causing it.

We asked our favourite doctor, Dr Christian Jessen, how to spot the differences between hay fever and a cold, and how to work out which one you’re suffering from.

“While both ailments typically feature a runny nose, sneezing and a feeling of congestion, you’ll generally feel more unwell with a cold. A cold can often cause body aches and a slight fever, while most people suffering from hay fever won’t get those symptoms. Hay fever can make you feel pretty lousy however.

The runny nose is also usually a bit different. With a cold, you may notice a thick, snotty discharge that can be yellow or green in colour, while the runny nose that comes with hay fever tends to be very watery and seems never to stop!”

A few medications to treat hay fever are listed below.

  • Telfast

    Telfast treats hay fever and seasonal allergies. It also relieves sneezing and itching. It does not cause drowsiness.

  • Fexofenadine

    Fexofenadine is an antihistamine medication used to treat hay fever. It relieves runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing associated with hay fever.

  • Avamys

    Avamys is an effective treatment for hay fever. It is a nasal spray used to relieve a blocked or runny nose. It is effective in as little as 8 hours.

  • Promethazine

    Promethazine treats itchy, sneezing and runny nose. It provides relief from seasonal allergies. It is a long lasting medication for hay fever.

  • Desloratadine

    Desloratadine works to treat hay fever symptoms. It works quickly and comes in a tablet.

  • Optilast Eye Drops

    Optilast eye drops treat itchy eyes. It reduces inflammation caused by hay fever and is easy to use.

  • Rhinolast Nasal Spray

    Rhinolast nasal spray is an effective hay fever medicine. It treats a runny or blocked nose. It is easy and convenient to use.

  • EpiPen

    EpiPen is for use in emergencies. It acts quickly to treat allergic reactions. It is easy to administer.

  • Loratadine

    Loratadine is an effective hay fever treatment. It treats a blocked nose and watery eyes. It is easy to use.

  • Levocetirizine

    Levocetirizine is an antihistamine medication. It prevents the allergic symptoms of hay fever. It soothes itching.

  • Piriton Allergy Tablets

    Piriton allergy tablets control allergic reactions. It offers relief from the symptoms of hay fever and is an effective treatment.

What causes hay fever?

The simplest answer would be to say that pollen causes hay fever, but the actual cause of hay fever is internal. Hay fever is when your body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless substance (pollen) as a threat, and it produces an antibody called immunoglobulin to fight it off. The production of this chemical also releases the chemical histamine, which causes the symptoms of hay fever.

The kind of pollen that people are allergic to can vary, with grass pollen being the most common allergen. This is why the vast majority of hay fever sufferers notice their symptoms are at their worst in the late Spring and Summer. However, people can suffer from hay fever due to a variety of pollens; tree pollen is at its peak in the Spring, weed pollen is more common in Autumn and spores from fungi peak in warm weather. Identifying which kind you are allergic to will, in turn, help you to manage your symptoms.

How can I treat hay fever?

We asked Dr Christian, in his medical opinion, what the best way to treat hay fever was:

“The technically correct answer is to completely avoid the thing causing your allergy. But as anyone with hay fever will know, this is virtually impossible. There are things that you can do to reduce your exposure however: try to avoid big open expanses of grass, keep your windows closed and clean yourself, your clothes and your house regularly to help keep pollen levels down.”

Thankfully there are plenty of medications and other remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of hay fever. Most commonly used are antihistamines; they work by reducing the amount of histamine your body makes, and it’s histamine that causes most of the symptoms. Antihistamines are available over the counter, without the need for a prescription. Some antihistamines can cause you to feel drowsy so make sure you ask for non-drowsy ones.

The best approach to tackling the symptoms of hay fever is to ‘attack it from all sides’ using antihistamines, eye drops and a nasal spray. Eye drops are great for reducing itching and redness of the eyes, while nasal sprays can help to stop congestion.

There are also a number of home remedies that you might want to try, including wearing wrap-around glasses to protect your eyes from pollen, or smearing a little Vaseline on the inside of your nostrils to make it harder for pollen to get through.