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May 2016
Hay Fever
Hay fever is the most common of all allergic diseases. It affects up to 1 in 5 people at some point in their life, around a quarter of people in the UK. Hay fever is a reaction to airborne substances, such as pollen, that get into the upper respiratory passages – the nose, sinus, throat – and the eyes. As part of their reproductive cycle, plants release pollen, a fine powder. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the throat, nose, sinuses and eyes to become swollen, irritated and inflamed. You can get hay fever at any age, however symptoms usually appear in childhood or during the teenage years. Many people find their symptoms improve as they get older. If you have a family history of allergies, such as asthma or eczema, then you are more likely to develop hay fever. What causes hay fever? The most common causes of hay fever are: Tree pollen (Spring hay fever) Grass pollen (Summer hay fever) Weed pollen (Autumn hay fever) House dust mites When these particles come into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, they trigger an allergic reaction. They cause your body to produce antibodies and release histamine. Histamine produces typical hay fever symptoms. What are the symptoms? Hay fever symptoms vary in severity and may be worse some years, depending on the weather conditions and pollen count. The symptoms of hay fever include: Itchy, red and watery eyes Frequent sneezing and a bunged up or runny nose Itching on the roof of the mouth Coughing (caused by postnasal drip) An itchy throat, nose, mouth and ears Treatment Visit your local pharmacy before going to see your GP and try and treat your hay fever symptoms with over-the-counter medications. There are various treatments over the counter for hay fever such as: Antihistamines – These treat hay fever by blocking the action of histamine which then stops the symptoms of the allergic reaction. Antihistamines are effective when treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes. You can use antihistamines as an “as required” treatment, or as a preventative treatment. They are available in tablet form and also as nasal sprays and eye drops. Eye drops – Eye drops treat the hay fever symptoms that affect your eyes, such as redness, itchiness and watering. The drops contain antihistamine to reduce the inflammation in your eyes, therefore relieving the symptoms. Nasal decongestants – In the event of hay fever causing a blocked nose, a decongestant, in the form of a nasal spray, can help relieve this. They reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in your nose, opening your nasal passage and making breathing easier. Nasal decongestants should not be used for more than 7 days. If your symptoms don’t improve make an appointment to see your GP, as you may need treatment with prescription medications. Self-help tips for reducing symptoms It is possible to prevent the symptoms of hay fever by taking some basic precautions such as: Keep your windows closed – even at night Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes Take a shower and change your clothes after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body Stay indoors when the pollen count is high Apply Vaseline to each of your nostrils to trap pollen and ease soreness Avoid drying your washing on the washing line when the pollen count is high Reference: www.nhs.uk Amber Pharmacy 01332 782844
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