Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to small particles in the air known as pollen.
Hay fever is an allergic response to pollen in the air. A person is more likely to be afflicted with the condition between spring and autumn as this is when the pollen count is at its highest.
Pollen are particles which, when released by plants during the warmer months, become airborne. When someone susceptible to hay fever breathes in these particles, their immune system retaliates as if the harmless pollen were an infection.
Cells release chemicals called histamines, in an attempt to rid the body of the invasion. These chemicals can cause the nasal passages to become inflamed and make it difficult to breathe.
There are two main treatments for hay fever:
Antihistamines work by preventing the cells from producing histamines, hence the name.
Corticosteroids, on the other hand, work in a slightly different way. Rather than stopping the production of the chemical which causes the inflammation, they prevent the inflammatory response from occurring.
The NHS reports that corticosteroids are a more effective treatment for hay fever than antihistamine tablets.
Despite what the name might suggest, hay fever is not necessarily caused by hay and a fever is unlikely to be a symptom.
Symptoms of hay fever include:
While the symptoms of hay fever are similar to those attributed of the common cold, they often last for weeks or months, reoccurring upon further exposure to pollen.
There are many ways hay fever can be prevented or managed, but these are not always possible.
A common recommendation is to rub Vaseline under your nose or around your nostrils to trap pollen.
Limiting your time outside and keeping windows and doors shut while the pollen count is high is an often affective strategy, but not always possible.
If you suffer from hay fever and need to venture outside, check the pollen count, which is often delivered as part of the weather forecast, and take appropriate steps to minimise your exposure to pollen.
You can try wearing wraparound sunglasses to prevent pollen getting into your eyes or a hat to prevent pollen getting into your hair and falling down your face.
Showering before bed can wash out the pollen which may have accumulated in your hair.
There are a number of treatments available for hay fever. Many of which are available from your local pharmacy. If your symptoms do not improve after using these treatments, or you notice your symptoms have worsened, speak to your GP.
Decongestant sprays and eye drops can treat the symptoms of hay fever. These treatments are available from your local pharmacy and provide short term relief for those with minor to moderate hay fever symptoms.
Antihistamine tablets are often effective at preventing the release of chemicals which cause the inflammatory response in your nose. While they can provide longer lasting relief from the symptoms, they can cause drowsiness which can render you unable to drive or operate machinery as part of your work. Speak to your pharmacist about non-drowsy antihistamine tablets if this is a concern to you.
Corticosteroids, often in the form of a nasal spray, can be prescribed for those whose hay fever symptoms are severe or don't respond to other treatments. When taken regularly, corticosteroids can provide the long-lasting prevention of hay fever symptoms, similarly to antihistamines, but unlike antihistamines, which begin working within an hour to two, corticosteroids need to be taken regularly for a few days before they become effective.
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