Dear Doctor, my hayfever feels like an illness!

As a sufferer of hayfever I can truly sympathise, hayfever can make summer a very miserable time!

With an itchy nose, itchy eyes, itchy mouth and constant sneezing, it’s really not a pretty sight. 

I remember once being in a park at a funfair when suddenly my hayfever kicked in. It felt like there was an explosion of pollen everywhere. My eyes were streaming and itching, my nose was on fire and I couldn’t breathe for all the sneezing. I literally had to turn and run like a madwoman to get out of there ASAP!

Hayfever is another one of those conditions that affects all people differently. Over time some people develop a sensitivity to certain triggers. For some people that can be dust, for others it is pollen. And of course it couldn’t be as simple as just pollen, we have a whole host of different pollens including tree pollens and grass pollens. Some people are lucky and never develop that sensitivity, others develop it mildly and overcome it, and others continue to be sensitive to pollens. For some this can worsen and become more like an allergy, causing severe reactions when exposed to pollens.

To complicate hayfever even further, not only are different pollens responsible but different responses occur in our bodies.

Some people get just the itchy, runny nose, others the sneezing, others just the eyes are affected and some can get rashes. Usually there is a combination of all as it can occur anywhere the pollen is exposed to.

So the important question, how should you manage your hayfever?

Well firstly, avoidance where possible is key. If you know something gives you a reaction then stay away! Not going outside into grassy areas when pollen is at its peak eg. morning until lunch times, will help. Washing your hands, showering when you get home and changing your clothes to remove pollen can also improve your symptoms.

The best way to tackle hayfever after you avoid all you can is to treat the symptoms. So the rest depends on what your symptoms are…

Antihistamine tablets work at reducing your whole bodies immune response to the trigger. They come in drowsy and non-drowsy forms, can be taken daily and are useful for tackling all the symptoms.

For the eyes, eyedrops like sodium cromoglicate are useful. For nose symptoms use a nasal spray, either a steroid spray or a combined steroid and antihistamine spray. Used regularly this can be enough to control symptoms without the need for tablets. Also for the nose, washing it out with water and applying a barrier at the entrance of the nostrils like vaseline can help stop pollen sitting in the nose.

Recently there has been talk of honey helping in hayfever. The idea being that if you eat a small amount of honey daily, from bees within 20 miles of where you live, you should build up some tolerance. This really depends on the type of pollens you respond to, if it’s grass pollen then I doubt honey will help. But it may be worth a try if you can get hold of some local honey!

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