Updated: Jun 14
Its that time of year again and the pollen is well and truly in full swing. The pollen season in the UK runs from March all the way through to September. Now we are allowed to socialise outside again (whoop whoop) this can present a challenge for a lot of people. In fact Allergy UK and Kleenex conducted a study saying that approximately 49% of the population suffer from some degree of hay fever. So what is hay fever? Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis, more commonly known as hay fever. It occurs when an allergen such as pollen, triggers inflammation of the inside of the nose. There are many different types of plant pollen, the main ones being tree, grass and weed pollen. They reach their peaks at different times throughout the year as demonstrated in the graph below.
Perennial allergic rhinitis occurs all year round and is often triggered by mould, dust or animal dander. When the allergens come into contact with your body, they trigger your immune response to release histamine. Histamine causes airways to constrict (wheezing), and dilates blood vessels as well as increasing their permeability. What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Itchy, red or watery eyes
Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears.
Loss of smell
Pain around temples and forehead
Pain in sinuses
How can your Community Pharmacist help? There are a multitude of possible solutions that are now available from the pharmacy. Medications to treat hay fever include oral antihistamines such as the older and potentially drowsy chlorphenamine (Piriton) and the newer non-drowsy medications, cetirizine (Piriteze), Loratadine (Clarityn) and acrivastine (Benadryl). Some pharmacies will also be able to supply the prescription only antihistamine, fexofenadine (Telfast) under a specific patient group directive. Fexofenadine has recently been reclassified, allowing it to be supplied from pharmacies without a prescription or the need for a private service from the pharmacist. There are also other medications available to treat your symptoms: For eye symptoms: Otrivine (xylometazoline, antazoline) eye drops provide temporary relief of redness and itching of the eye due to hay fever or dust allergies. These should be used with caution in patient with diabetes or uncontrolled high blood pressure. Make sure you speak to your pharmacist if you have any medical conditions or are taking any other medications. For nasal symptoms: Beconase (beclometasone) a corticosteroid works as an anti-inflammatory within the nasal cavity. This reduces the symptoms of hay fever. However regular use is required. Alternative solutions: If you are unable to take medication, there may be other suitable solutions to help you with your hay fever symptoms. For example you can use a pollen barrier balm such as the multi-award winning HayMax, which is made from a blend of beeswax and seed oils. This is applied to the base of your nostrils and around your eyes and works by restricting the number of allergenic particles that enter your body. The benefits of HayMax are that it is non-drowsy and suitable for pregnant women. If you suffer from congestion symptoms, then it may be useful to use a sea water irrigation solution such as Sterimar. It works by physically removing the pollen and dust allergens from the nasal cavity, resulting in improved symptoms. Did you know Sterimar is the UK's no.1 prescribed non-medicated nasal spray? Other methods for treating hay fever:
Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
Stay indoors whenever possible
Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
Buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
Do not cut grass or walk on grass
do not spend too much time outside
do not keep fresh flowers in the house
do not smoke or be around smoke – it makes your symptoms worse
do not dry clothes outside – they can catch pollen
do not let pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors
Remember to always speak to your pharmacist regarding any new medication. If you have any questions just pop into your local pharmacy and they will be happy to provide you with more information. You can also find more information at www.allergyuk.org, the leading national charity providing support, advice and information for those living with allergic disease.