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There's something in the air...

Woman in hayfieldThe summer time is a fantastic opportunity to spend more time outdoors, to soak up the sun’s rays and enjoy some fresh air if we are lucky enough to have some fair weather. But for some of us summer can be a nightmare of several months of sneezing, puffy eyes and itching.

It is estimated that around 18 million people in the UK have hayfever. That is a quarter of us. Admission to hospital for hayfever-related symptoms is on the increase by 10.9% although they are largely of a non-emergency variety. 95% of UK sufferers are allergic to grass pollen and a quarter are allergic to tree pollen.

Tree pollen often triggers symptoms during the spring months whereas grass pollen is often in the air in the later spring and summer. Hayfever can also be caused by mould spores and weeds. It is common to be allergic to more than one variety.

The body’s immune system interprets the allergen as an invader and responds by releasing a chemical called histamine into the blood stream. The histamine causes swelling and redness of sinuses, nose and mucus membranes of the eyes and triggers sneezing. Swelling is designed to block the allergen from entering the body and sneezing is a way of expelling it. Histamine allows extra fluids to enter the nasal tissue, resulting in congestion, itching and a runny nose, puffed eyes, irritability, fatigue and insomnia.

Hayfever often starts in childhood or the teenage years but it can come on at any time. It is not really known why some people get it more than others but there is some evidence that it is hereditary. Those with conditions such as eczema and asthma are more likely to have it.

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms of hayfever, check out these top tips to help improve your summer days:

  • Keep windows shut at night and first thing in the morning
  • Stay indoors when the count is high
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses
  • Put Vaseline on the inside of your nostrils to trap the pollen
  • Avoid mowing grass or sitting in fields or large areas of grass
  • Wash your hands and face regularly
  • Avoid exposure to other allergens such as pet fur, cigarette smoke or insect sprays

There is a range of over the counter treatments available from your local pharmacy including:

  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
  • Steroid and saline nose sprays and eye drops

If the symptoms are severe and persistent you should talk to your GP who may suggest alternative treatments such as Immunotherapy which is designed to increase your tolerance to the substances that trigger symptoms.

There is a lot of information available online to help you manage your hayfever symptoms this summer.