Hay fever or allergic rhinitis is one of the most common allergic conditions in the world. Hay fever symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, and tiredness. More than 10 million people suffer from hay fever in the UK.

It has two types:

  1. Seasonal Hay Fever – occurs on months when individual plants pollinate. For example, if you suffer from hay fever during autumn, you are probably allergic to some weeds and fungus spores. During spring, tree pollens.
  2. Perennial Hay Fever – occurs all year round. Perennial hay fever is most likely due to indoor allergens like dust mites, animal dander (tiny flakes of skin), fur, or feathers. You may find these triggers in beddings, carpets, pillows, and draperies. Moulds can also cause hay fever symptoms. They usually thrive in damp areas like your basement or bathroom.

Common hay fever allergens:

  • Pollen
  • Fungi
  • Mould
  • Pet fur or dander
  • Dust mites
  • Perfume
  • Cigarette smoke

What Causes Hay Fever?

An overreacting immune system causes hay fever. When an allergen (e.g. pollens) enter your body, your immune system treats this as a harmful substance - setting in motion a series of defensive mechanisms to protect you. Levels of histamine and leukotrienes in your blood rise, causing the lining of your sinuses, eyelids, and nasal passages to become inflamed. You also sneeze more than usual.

These hay fever symptoms protect your body by either trapping (like in the case of swelling nasal passages so the allergens can't enter) or expelling (like in the case of sneezing) the allergens.

Hay fever is often inherited. If one or more of your family members suffer from hay fever, there’s a big chance that you’ll get one too.

What are the Symptoms of Hay Fever?

Below are the most common hay fever symptoms that you’ll encounter:

  • Prolonged and violent sneezing
  • Runny nose or blocked nose
  • Itchiness particularly in your nose, throat, and roof of your mouth
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Ear fullness
  • Postnasal drip that may lead to coughing
  • Anosmia or the loss of your sense of smell
  • Facial pain

Hay fever symptoms vary in severity and duration. It may also depend on weather conditions. In the UK, hay fever is often worse during late March to September. The warm, windy, and humid weather is ideal for pollen propagation.

The presence of irritants in the air often aggravates severe hay fever symptoms. The inflammation in the lining of your nose makes your nose more sensitive to irritants. Below are some of the common irritants that may make your hay fever symptoms worse:

  • Air pollution
  • Humidity changes
  • Wind
  • Strong odours
  • Wood smoke
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Irritating fumes
  • Temperature changes
  • Cigarette smoke

If left unchecked, severe hay fever symptoms can lead to various complications like:

  • Asthma
  • Ear infections (this is more common in children)
  • Sinusitis (persistent inflammation of your sinuses)
  • Allergic conjunctivitis (a complication that results when an allergen irritates the membranes on your eye)

What is the Difference Between a Cold and Hay Fever?

Many people confuse colds and hay fever. Why? Because cold and hay fever symptoms can feel similar. Hay fever treatment is very different from colds; that's why it's essential to know the differences between the two.

Cold Hay Fever
Symptoms Colds cause a runny nose, and the discharge is often thicker and yellowish. Hay fever causes a runny nose, but the discharge is watery and thin.
Duration 3-7 days. Hay fever lasts as long as the allergens that caused it are still there. Hay fever often goes on for several weeks.
Fever Colds often come with a low-grade fever. Hay fever doesn’t cause a fever.
Timing Colds begin one to three days after your exposure to the cold virus. Hay fever symptoms begin immediately after your exposure to an allergen.

Remember, the most significant difference between a cold and hay fever is that a cold will always come with body aches and a fever.

Hay Fever Treatments

You can reduce your hay fever symptoms by decreasing your exposure to allergens. For example, you can clean and air out your room regularly to prevent dust and mould from collecting. Other lifestyle changes that you can do include:

  • Washing your hands after interacting with your pets.
  • Use a dehumidifier in your room to control mould growth.
  • Keeping windows closed, especially when the weather is dry, windy, and humid to keep pollens out.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes when you go outside.

Hay Fever Medications

Nasal Sprays

Nasal sprays like Mometasone and Nasonex from Express Pharmacy can help relieve nasal congestion and reduce postnasal drip. These medications contain corticosteroids which help reduce the inflammation and swelling of the lining of your nose.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines help control your itches and sneezing. Express Pharmacy sells Fexofenadine (generic) and Telfast (branded) which you can get without a prescription. These antihistamines don't make you feel drowsy, so they're safe to use even while at work.

You can buy your hayfever treatments through Express Pharmacy.

When to See a Doctor

Most hay fever cases can be treated at home using over the counter treatments. See your GP if:

  • You have severe hay fever symptoms that don’t go away with regular hay fever treatments.
  • You are suffering side effects from your medication
  • You experience repeated sinusitis or worsening asthma
  • You experience the symptoms in an unusual time (for example during winter) or place. You might need to undergo some tests to confirm other allergens that might be causing your hay fever.

How to Prevent Hay Fever

The best way to prevent hay fever is to steer clear from the allergens that trigger it. Lifestyle changes like cleaning your home, keeping your yard clean, and daily exercise can help reduce your chances of catching hay fever again. Eating healthy can also give your immune system a boost.

When you go outside, wear a hat with a brim to protect your face. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. And always wash your face and hands when you get home or after interacting with your pets. During hay fever season, it’s better to keep your pets outside the house. Bathe them regularly if they come inside often.