It may still be chilly out there, but did you know that the hay fever season is fast approaching? It’s easy for us to assume that hay fever is only a problem in the warmer summer months, but hay fever can actually be an almost year round ailment for some people.
What Is Hay fever, And Why Would I Get In This Early In The Year?
Hayfever, otherwise known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is caused by an allergy to pollens and fungal spores. It happens when your body makes antibodies in response to certain triggers, such as pollen. The charity Allergy UK estimates that as many as nearly 18 million people have hay fever in the UK, with common symptoms usually including sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, and a stuffy nose.
It is very common in children but can often be found in adults as well. Symptoms are usually much worse for sufferers during the summer months as the pollen count rises, but some pollens can be found in the atmosphere much earlier.
If you happen to have symptoms that start as early as January or February for example, and continue until late March, it may be that you’re allergic to early flowering trees, such as the hazel and alder. In fact, many trees and grasses are flowering sooner and for longer, creating more of the pollen which is the main trigger of hay fever.
How Do I Know If I Have Early Hayfever?
The most common symptoms of hay fever include:
- frequent sneezing.
- a runny or blocked nose.
- itchy, red or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
- an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears.
- cough, caused by postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose)
These are the easiest symptoms to spot and are a tell tale sign of hay fever. Sufferers can be unfortunate enough to also suffer from a decreased sense of smell, facial pain, headaches, earache and fatigue. No matter what your symptoms, hay fever can feel like a debilitating condition, especially if you have it from March right through unit the end of the summer or even early autumn in many cases.
How Should I Treat My Hayfever
You can start by reducing some of the symptoms of hay fever by making sure you are in good physical condition. Good stress management, a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and a good amount of sleep every night should put you in tip top condition.
Should you need to take medication to relieve your symptoms, hay fever tablets, called antihistamines, are very effective at relieving the symptoms of hay fever. You can usually buy these over the counter and they are available in tablet or liquid form or even as eye drops or nasal sprays. Antihistamines work by blocking the action of histamine, a chemical released by the body after it has been exposed to pollen. This, in turn, reduces the itchy eyes and runny nose.
The key to successful use of antihistamines is to start using them as a preventative treatment, two weeks before your symptoms usually begin. Of course, if you suffer from early hay fever, this can mean taking medication as early as February. Taking the medications occasionally, or on the worst days is much less effective than taking them regularly as a preventative measure.
There are also a wide range of different nasal sprays which can be tried. These usually contain steroids in a low dose so that it can be taken regularly without fear of serious side effects, and as with antihistamines, they need to be taken before the symptoms start to have maximum benefit. Some can be bought over the counter, although many are prescription only, and it would certainly be advisable to consult with your GP if you have persistent symptoms to obtain access to the widest possible range of medications and treatments.
Most people with allergic rhinitis are successfully managed with allergy avoidance and medical therapies. However there are certain situations in which surgery may have a role. These would be as follows:
- If you suffer from persistent symptoms resistant to medical treatment
- If you suffer from anatomically large, swollen intranasal tissue (inferior turbinates)
Both of the above can be improved with the right surgery, although by and large surgery is not the only solution as the underlying allergy will still remain. Good anti-allergy management is therefore key.
For a very small number of patients with the most severe allergies, a treatment called immunotherapy is an option. This involves receiving a very gradual and graded exposure to the substance or allergen that you are allergic to. When given in very small doses, your immune system will gradually build up a tolerance or resistance to the allergen which means that you won’t react aggressively when exposed to it in the future.
Here at London ENT we are able to offer advise on a wide variety of allergies and prospective treatments to alleviate the same. Speak to us today on 07969 562855 or click here to contact us by email, to find out how we can help you.