8 ways to help control your hay fever
The warm weather means that the pollen season will be shorter but more intense. Here's some advice on how to cope.
Published 03/07/2014 | 02:30
For the 20pc of us who suffer with varying degrees of hay fever, summer can be a time of sheer misery. The pollen released by plants, trees and grasses around this time of year triggers an allergic reaction in hay fever sufferers.
Sneezing, itchy and running noses, streaming eyes and even headaches are the most common symptoms of hay fever, or allergic rhinitis to give it its medical name.
To make matters worse, the fine weather this summer means that, while the pollen season will be shorter, the levels will be higher, spelling misery for hay fever sufferers.
While you can't lock yourself in a darkened, airtight room until the end of August, there are some things you can do to minimize the symptoms and make the sneezing season more bearable.
Take preventative action
South Dublin GP Dr Paul Carson, an allergy specialist and author of the book Hay Fever – How to Beat It, says, typically, people leave it until they feel miserable before seeking medical attention. Ideally, he says people should be going to the doctor before their symptoms present.
He says the first port of call should be a pharmacy to get an effective antihistamine and a rapid nasal spray to unblock the nose.
However, if symptoms persist, people should visit their GP for a physical examination of symptoms. For more severe cases, antihistamines can be prescribed, as well as special anti-allergy tablets and steroids.
Use your medication properly
Professor Jonathan Hourihane, Professor of Paediatric and Child Health at UCC, says it's common for people not to use the treatments properly, and this can add to sufferers' problems.
He believes that, by using the most up-to-date medications properly, sufferers could see a big improvement in their conditions. He says it often boils down to people using old-fashioned antihistamines to treat themselves when, by talking to their pharmacist, they could be using a more effective up-to-date one.
Preparation is key in terms of keeping symptoms at bay. You wouldn't dream of going boating without checking the weather forecast, so the same is true of hay fever. The Asthma Society of Ireland produces a pollen forecast which is available at www.asthma.ie. By doing this, you can plan your schedule according to the pollen forecast. The society says it's a good idea to keep a symptom diary and that way you can monitor what pollen is a trigger for you. In doing this you can help prepare for next year's pollen season.
Don't go rolling in the grass
It sounds obvious, but don't put yourself in situations where your symptoms are going to go into overdrive. So, realistically, hay fever sufferers should avoid lush grassland where spores carrying the pollen grains are going to be plentiful. On high pollen count days, it's a good idea to avoid being outdoors during the late morning and late afternoon. Keep house and car windows closed during these peak pollen hours too. If the grass needs cutting, get someone else to do it. If you absolutely have to mow the lawn, wear a microfibre face mask. You might look strange, but you won't end up sneezing for the rest of the day.
If you have been outdoors walking or gardening, the Asthma Society says it's a good idea to shower, wash your hair and change your clothes to help reduce the amount of pollen you're carrying into your house.
Wear wraparound sunglasses if you're going to be outdoors. While you might feel a bit pretentious wearing the shades on a cloudy day, you'll still be doing yourself a favour. Even on duller days the pollen count can still be high, and wraparound shades will help reduce pollen grains entering the eyes. Those who suffer from hay fever can attest to the fact that, once an eye gets itchy, it stays itchy.
It's cheap and easily available, and Vaseline is really a must-have for a hay fever sufferer. By smearing a dab of Vaseline inside each nostril you will capture pollen entering the nasal passages. It's soothing for sore, red noses and acts as a balm to itchy eyes.
According to the Asthma Society, it's no harm to splash your eyes with cold water regularly to help flush out the pollen and cool irritated eyes.
Remember your medication
It's important that you keep any medication, including antihistamine medication, to hand at all times. That way, if you feel symptoms coming on, you don't have to go out of your way for medical relief.
If you are going on holidays ensure you have enough medication to last for the duration of the holiday.
Check the forecast
A pollen and spores forecast is available from the Asthma Society, with forecasts available for each province, indicating pollen levels in the area, from low, moderate, high to very high. For further information on how to avoid allergy triggers and cope with allergic rhinitis, you can contact the Asthma advice line on (1850) 445464.