What is Hay fever
Hay fever is common allergic condition affecting up to one in five people in the UK. It is a breathing allergy caused by pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. It contains proteins that can irritate the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses, causing inflammation.
Hay fever is caused by the immune system perceiving pollen as being a threat and attempting to fight it, causing the symptoms of hay fever.
Allergies can be a nuisance affecting everyday activity, however hay fever is usually mild in nature depending on the pollen count in the air, and can largely be managed. Once diagnosed its symptoms can be treated with Antihistamines, which can also be taken preventatively.
Symptoms for hay fever vary in severity and may be worse some years, depending on the weather condition and pollen count in the air. Pollen count is the number of grains of pollen in one cubic meter of air. Hay fever symptoms usually begin when the pollen count is over 50.
Mostly symptoms for hay fever include;
- Frequent sneezing
- Runny or blocked nose
- Itchy, red or watery eyes
- An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
- Cough, caused by postnasal drip
Less commonly, those allergic to pollen may also experience more severe symptoms, such as;
- Loss of your sense of smell
- Facial pain
- Tiredness and fatigue
Symptoms can be mild or severe, often interfering with your sleep and daily activities.
If you have asthma, your symptoms may get worse when you have hay fever. Such as tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
Hay fever is caused as an allergic reaction to pollen. When these tiny particles come in contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, they cause irritation and trigger an allergic reaction.
For those suffering from hay fever, the immune system overreacts, perceiving pollen as being a threat to the body. The immune system as result, releases a number of chemicals designed to prevent the spread of what is wrongly perceived by the body as an infection. These chemicals cause the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
It is unclear what causes the immune system to react in this way, however there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing hay fever.
- Having asthma or eczema
- A family history of hay fever
- Exposure to tobacco smoke and diesel exhaust particles during early childhood.
One might develop hay fever in reaction to pollen from plants, grass, trees or weeds. Some people can also develop a hay fever like allergy in reaction to fungal spores, that are inhaled like pollen.
Hay fever is particularly widespread during periods of wet or damp weather.
To diagnose an allergic condition such as hay fever, your GP will ask about your symptoms, how often they occur and what seems to trigger them.
You may be referred further for allergy testing if you present with severe symptoms and unusual patterns.
Skin prick testing
This is the most common allergy test. A drop of liquid is put on your forearm, containing pollen. The skin under the drop is gently pricked with the needle, if you are allergic, an itchy red bump will appear in 15 minutes. The process is entirely painless and safe.
Blood tests are commonly used instead of or alongside skin prick testing. Blood is tested for Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody. If you have hay fever your body produces this antibody when it comes into contact with pollen.
The most effective way of managing hay fever is by avoiding pollen or taking precaution when you know there’s going to be a high pollen count.
We offer Antihistamines to help control the symptoms of hay fever and ease the discomfort.
They treat hay fever by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it is under attack from an allergen. Antihistamines effectively treat itching, sneezing and watery eyes, however it may not help with clearing a blocked nose.
They can be used as and when required, it is most effective when taken and the first sign of an allergic reaction. You can also take it preventatively. This includes Telfast, as a tablet, nasal spray or eye drops