British Summer Time is upon us, and hopefully the warmer weather will be here soon. Whilst this is great news for many of us, for hayfever sufferers it means the onset of the pollen season and the struggle to combat their allergies.
Hayfever is caused by an allergy to pollen, most commonly grass pollen, which is at its peak from May to July each year. Typical symptoms of hay fever can start in March however, and for some go on until late summer. Sufferers will be all too familiar with the symptoms - sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, sometimes an itchy throat - which are caused by the immune system reacting to the pollen. Cells in the lining of the nose and eyes release histamine and other chemicals when they come into contact with pollen, causing inflammation.
1 in 5 people in the UK has hayfever, and the numbers are growing. It tends to run in families, and you are also more likely to develop hayfever if you already have asthma or eczema.
Hayfever often first develops in school-age children and during the teenage years, but can start at any time in life. Some grow out of it, some are affected in one city but not another (as they may have built up a tolerance to local pollens), and the symptoms can vary considerably. Many people only have mild symptoms that come and go, whilst others will be severely affected every day during the pollen season.
Here are Dr Wendy Snell’s, General Practitioner at Bupa Cromwell Hospital top tips on how best to cope with the symptoms:
Look out for the daily pollen forecast, often given with TV, radio, online or newspaper weather reports. The pollen count is the number of pollen grains per cubic metre of air; a count over 50 is high, so consider staying indoors and keeping doors and windows shut, particularly during the early morning and evening when the pollen count is at its highest.
When the pollen count is high stay indoors as much as possible and keep windows and doors shut. If in the car keep the windows closed.
Antihistamine tablets, which can be bought from your local supermarket or pharmacy, may help to calm sneezing and dry up a runny nose. Eye drops can be used on itchy and sore eyes, whilst an antihistamine or steroid nasal spray may help ease the discomfort of a blocked nose.
Avoid cutting grass, large grassy places or camping. If your child suffers and is likely to be playing sports outdoors then think about giving them some antihistamine before school.
Wear wrap-around sunglasses to protect your eyes as much as possible when outside.
For anyone suffering from more severe symptoms which are not relieved with nasal sprays, eye drops and antihistamines, it would be worth a visit to your GP for an assessment and to discuss other treatment options . If necessary a referral to an allergy specialist can be made.
To make an appoint please call 020 7460 5700.