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Hay Fever and grass / pollen allergies: what can I do?

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

TGIF dear friends! Welcome back to Dr Euan's Blog posts. Today we are looking at another common ENT issue that affects many people that of HAY FEVER or Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis.




Q: What are the common symptoms of Hay Fever?

Common symptoms commonly include:

  • runny nose

  • nasal congestion

  • sneezing

  • watery, red, or itchy eyes

  • coughing

  • itchy throat or roof of the mouth

  • postnasal drip

  • itchy nose

  • sinus pressure and pain

  • headaches

  • itchy skin

Symptoms may become long-term or chronic if hay fever is untreated.

Also, there are seasonal factors at play

Hay fever signs and symptoms may start or worsen at a particular time of year.

Triggers include:

  • Tree pollen, which is common in early spring.

  • Grass pollen, which is common in late spring and summer.

  • Ragweed pollen, which is common in fall (autumn)

  • Spores from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds are considered both seasonal and perennial.

Problems that may be associated with hay fever include:

  • Reduced quality of life. Hay fever can interfere with your enjoyment of activities and cause you to be less productive. For many people, hay fever symptoms lead to absences from work or school.

  • Poor sleep. Hay fever symptoms can keep you awake or make it hard to stay asleep, which can lead to fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell (malaise).

  • Worsening asthma. Hay fever can worsen signs and symptoms of asthma, such as coughing and wheezing.

  • Sinusitis. Prolonged sinus congestion due to hay fever may increase your susceptibility to sinusitis — an infection or inflammation of the membrane that lines the sinuses.

  • Ear infection. In children, hay fever often is a factor in middle ear infection (otitis media).


Q: How do I check if I have such Hay Fever or Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis?

Do consult your GP or ENT Specialist, who will take a detailed medical history and examine your nose and sinuses, perhaps including a naso-endoscopy.

We can also arrange for allergy testing, either by the Skin Prick test method, or the Blood test for IgE RAST test.

This will provide specific information about your allergens so that you can reduce your exposure or target via Immuno-therapy which we talked about in our last blogpost.


Q: What can I do to reduce my exposure to these allergen triggers?

Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers

To reduce your exposure to the things that trigger your allergy signs and symptoms (allergens):

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.

  • Delegate lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.

  • Remove clothes you've worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.

  • Don't hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.

  • Wear a pollen mask if you do outside chores.

Take extra steps when pollen counts are high

Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there's a lot of pollen in the air. These steps can help you reduce your exposure:

  • Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the Internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.

  • If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.

  • Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.

  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.


Q: What can I take when I get an attack of hay fever?

There are several types of medications can help ease allergy symptoms, such as:

  • Oral antihistamines. Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a runny nose and watery eyes. Examples of oral antihistamines include loratadine (Clarityne), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Telfast).

  • Decongestants. Oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Decongestants also come in nasal sprays, such as oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine). Do remember to ONLY use nasal decongestants for a few days in a row. Longer-term use of decongestant nasal sprays can actually worsen symptoms (rebound congestion) which can be difficult to manage.

  • Nasal spray. Cromolyn sodium nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms and doesn't have serious side effects, though it's most effective when you begin using it before your symptoms start.

  • Combination medications. Some allergy medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Examples include loratadine-pseudoephedrine (Clarityne-D) and fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine (Telfast-D).


Q: How about natural remedies?

A number of natural remedies have been used to treat hay fever symptoms. Treatments that may help include extracts of the shrub butterbur and spirulina (a form of dried algae). However, the benefits and safety are not entirely clear.

Some people claim acupuncture can help with seasonal allergy symptoms. There is some evidence that acupuncture works, and there seems to be little evidence of harm.

Do talk to your GP before trying alternative treatments. So that he / she is aware and can help advise you.


Rinse your sinuses

Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.


Look for a squeeze bottle or a neti pot — a small container with a spout designed for nasal rinsing — at your pharmacy or health store. Use water that's distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller to make up the saline irrigation solution. Also be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.


If you are still troubled by hay fever symptoms, do contact us today for a check up and further treatment options.


Have a good restful weekend 😊


References:

  1. Outdoor allergens. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/outdoor-allergens. Accessed May 3, 2018.

  2. Allergy-friendly gardening. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/allergy-friendly-gardening. Accessed May 3, 2018.

  3. Indoor allergens. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/indoor-allergens. Accessed May 3, 2018.

  4. Allergies and hay fever. American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/content/allergies-and-hay-fever. Accessed May 3, 2018.

  5. de Shazo RD, et al. Pharmacotherapy of allergic rhinitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 3, 2018.

  6. Seidman MD, et al. Clinical practice guideline: Allergic rhinitis. Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. 2015;152:S1.

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