A senior doctor at Epsom and St Helier hospitals is urging local hay fever sufferers to prepare themselves for the summer, with a number of hints and tips to get through the ‘sneezy season’.
Hay fever is an allergy to pollen that affects around one in four people, and its symptoms usually include frequent sneezing, a runny or blocked nose and itchy, red or watery eyes (also known as allergic conjunctivitis).
Dr Ruth Charlton, Deputy Chief Executive and Joint Medical Director, said: “For most people the symptoms of hay fever are mild, but they can interfere with sleep and daily activities at work or school. There are a range of treatments that are available from pharmacists to help reduce the effect of pollen, including tablets, liquid, inhalers, nasal sprays and eye drops. There are also several natural and herbal remedies which you can buy over the counter at chemists and supermarkets.
“But hay fever isn’t always that straightforward, and people who suffer from asthma should take extra care during this time of year. People with asthma should keep an eye on their condition, and speak to your GP if you feel it getting worse. Your GP should be able to produce a plan for you so that you can control your symptoms by adjusting your asthma medication. If you are in any doubt, please call your doctor for advice.”
Sufferers who have mild symptoms can also try:
- Wearing wrap-around sunglasses when you are out in the open to stop pollen getting in your eyes
- Dry off any wet washing indoors so pollen does not stick to your clothes
- Avoid cutting grass
- Wet a towel and wipe your hair and wash your face when you come indoors to rinse off pollen trapped in your hair, eyebrows and eyelashes
- Keep your bedroom a pollen-free zone (keep windows shut and keep your outdoor clothes away from your bed).
Ruth added: “It is very difficult to completely avoid pollen, and we don’t want people to feel that they have to stay in the house during the warmer weather. However, reducing exposure to the substances that trigger hay fever should ease someone’s symptoms. For example rubbing a small amount of vaseline inside your lower nostrils can help to prevent pollen from entering your nasal passages.
“Most cases of hay fever can be treated using over-the-counter medication. Your local pharmacist can advise on treatments for you and your children.
“Please only seek advice from a GP if you can’t control your symptoms with over-the-counter medications, or if you are having troubling side effects caused by the medication. If you are suffering worsening asthma or repeated episodes of sinusitis (a condition where the lining of the sinuses becomes inflamed) and if the patterns of your symptoms are unusual, for example, if they are occurring during winter or only at work.”
For more information about hay fever, please visit www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hay-fever/Pages/Introduction.aspx.