Hay fever is a condition caused by an allergy to pollen and is characterised by cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose or watery eyes. The condition affects the quality of life of up to 16 million people each year in the UK and is most prevalent between the early spring and summer months. Whilst there's no permanent fix for the condition, hay fever is easily managed with lifestyle changes and treatment which you can purchase online here at euroClinix.
Hay fever is a common condition known as allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergic rhinitis. Most people develop it during childhood, but some start noticing symptoms in adulthood.
Symptoms occur when the body comes into contact with pollen or other allergens such as pet dander, mould and house dust mites. Your body mistakes these allergens as harmful and produces IgE antibodies in response to the allergen. When these antibodies come into contact with the allergen, your body releases a chemical called histamine which triggers an immune response to the allergen.
Your body comes into direct contact with pollen via the mucous membranes of your nose, eye and mouth. However, pollen particles on your skin, hair and clothes can also trigger symptoms.
Hay fever is most common during the months between March and September, as the climate is warmer and it tends to be windier. As pollen is airborne, it means it's more easily spread during these months and more people are affected.
However, different types of pollen are more prevalent at different times of the year. So depending on what triggers your symptoms, your hay fever may be more severe at certain times of the year.
Pollen is the main cause of allergic rhinitis. It is the powdery substances that flowers produce to reproduce. There are three main types of pollen in the UK that can result in symptoms.
Grass pollen is the most prevalent type of pollen in the UK and has the longest season. Grass pollen season lasts during the later months of the summer, from May to early September, but is at its highest between June and July. If you're particularly sensitive to grass pollen, you may find that your symptoms are worse whilst you're cutting the grass.
Another significant cause of hay fever is tree pollen. Tree pollen comes from the flowers of the trees. There is a wide variety of tree pollen in the UK and therefore has quite a long season. Some tree pollen is prevalent as early as January, but the season starts for most during March and ends around July.
The most troublesome of tree pollen is birch pollen, but other common offenders include oak, pine, alder and hazel pollen.
The final trigger of hay fever is weed pollen. Weed pollen season typically starts around late April and lasts until the end of September. Like tree pollen, there are several variants of weed pollen. Ragweed pollen is the most notable, but nettle, mugwort and dock pollen are also some of the most troublesome.
Hay fever symptoms can also be caused by a few other allergens, including:
These are less commonly associated with hay fever, but can cause some people serious allergic reactions.
Some people may be more at risk of developing hay fever than others including those who have:
These conditions means you may be more likely to develop the condition and experience more prevalent symptoms.
The severity and the nature of your symptoms varies depending on the individual. The most common symptoms include:
The symptoms of hay fever and colds can be quite similar, but there are a few differences that will help you distinguish between the two.
The main difference between the two is the duration of symptoms. Seasonal allergy symptoms typically last for a lot longer and occur periodically during specific pollen seasons. A cold, on the other hand, typically lasts for 1 - 2 weeks.
Cold symptoms also tend to be slightly different than hay fever symptoms. If you have a cold, it's more common to experience nasal congestion, a fever and a cough. Whilst in the case of hay fever, you're more likely to experience itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose.
Living with asthma can be difficult, but it can be even more difficult for asthmatics who also experience hay fever.
Hay fever can trigger asthma symptoms, in fact 80% of people who have asthma also struggle with hay fever throughout the year. Symptoms of hay fever for people with asthma tend to be worse and cause breathing difficulties such as:
If the symptoms aren't managed, it could result in an asthma attack which can be dangerous. Therefore, it's important that you manage your asthma by taking your inhalers and other asthma medicines correctly. You should also prepare for the hay fever season by following preventative measures and stocking up on your antihistamines.
For the occasional hay fever sufferers, a pharmacist can diagnose you with a description of your symptoms. You will rarely need a formal diagnosis for hay fever.
Your GP will only refer you to a specialist immunology clinic for allergy testing if your symptoms occur throughout the year or are not responding to treatment.
If you need allergy testing, it will likely be one of two tests. A skin prick test will involve the immunologist placing the pollen on your skin and pricking it with a needle. If your skin reacts, you have a pollen allergy. Otherwise, you will have a blood test to detect the specific antibodies released during an allergic reaction.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent hay fever symptoms from occurring.
Doing these steps on high pollen count days or during the seasons that affect you most will help reduce the risk of symptoms occurring and alleviate them if they do occur.
Although you cannot cure hay fever, there are plenty of treatments available for the wide variety of symptoms.
The most common treatment for hay fever are medicines known as antihistamines. They work by blocking the histamine response in your body, which prevents symptoms from occurring.
Antihistamines tend to be available in liquid and tablet form, but some come in topical forms (eye drops or nasal sprays) for more direct relief of symptoms.
Over-the-counter antihistamine medicines are the safest option, especially if you are pregnant or have an underlying condition. Common over-the-counter antihistamines include:
Some antihistamines are more potent, and therefore need a prescription, such as:
The above medicines tend to have more side effects, and may not be suitable for some. Therefore, it's important you consult your doctor before taking any antihistamines.
Another type of medicine you can take for hay fever symptoms are nasal decongestants. They provide direct relief for a runny or blocked nose, and will alleviate any congestion.
Like antihistamines, there are several forms available over the counter. Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine (Sudafed) are commonly sold in liquid and tablet forms, and are often included in combination treatments with certain antihistamines.
Oxymetazoline is another decongestant and the active ingredient of many brands of nasal sprays and drops (e.g Otrivine or Vicks). You should not take nasal sprays and drops for longer than a week, as this can cause symptoms to come back or get worse.
There are also more natural decongestants available such as salt water rinses and sprays as well as mentholated treatments.
There are also several brands of eye drops available for allergic conjunctivitis, the medical name for itchy, red and watery eyes caused by hay fever.
The main medicine available for eye symptoms is called sodium cromoglicate, an anti-inflammatory agent that directly targets the allergic response.
If you find that regular antihistamines don't help your allergic rhinitis symptoms, you may benefit from stronger treatment. Corticosteroids, otherwise known as steroids, are available on prescription for severe hay fever symptoms. They directly target inflammation in the nasal passage and reduce symptoms.
Commonly prescribed steroids include:
Steroid sprays and drops can cause side effects and are not suitable for everyone to take. For that reason, it's important to consult your doctor before using one.
For the most severe of hay fever symptoms, you may be referred for immunotherapy, sometimes referred to as desensitisation.
This is a form of preventative treatment which you start around 3 months before the hay fever season. You will be given allergy shots over a period of time which contain small amounts of pollen. This therefore modifies your immune system’s response to pollen or another allergen, so that your body doesn't recognise it as a harmful substance.
It is quite difficult to get immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis. It’s not available on the NHS as it is both a time-consuming and expensive treatment. Therefore, it is only reserved for patients with very severe symptoms.
Yes, you can purchase prescription hay fever treatments online here at euroClinix. All you have to do is fill out a short medical consultation form, which will be approved by one of our UK registered doctors. Once approved for treatment, your medication will be dispensed and dispatched to your home with free next-day delivery.
Fill out a short