The arrival of summer is a joyful time for the majority of us but for those suffering from hay fever it can be a season of dread.
Invisible clouds of pollen wreak havoc with the sinuses of over 25pc of Europeans causing summers plagued with runny noses, dripping eyes, irritated skin and exhaustion.
“Hay fever affects Irish people predominantly during the summer months particularly in June and July. It irritates the nose lining first but then spreads from the nose lining into the sinuses and then begins to irritate the lining of the eyes,” said Dr. Paul Carson, allergy expert at Stillorgan based Slievemore Clinic.
“Some people will then become wheezy and people who have had childhood eczema may find that their healed skin becomes itchy and they’re irritating it again,” he said.
The number of Irish hay fever sufferers is on the rise which Dr. Carson contributes to a number of factors.
“Twenty years ago, what was maybe 10pc of the population had allergies and now this has crept up to 15pc. It’s now reckoned that 24pc of the population have some type of allergy.
“Hay fever in particular though is on the increase probably due to genetics. Many of us inherit the genetic tendency to be allergic from our parents. Atmospheric pollution, particularly diesel fumes, the amount of chemicals that are in our diet and an over reliance on antibiotics in childhood all compromise the immune system,” he said.
Many seek relief from their local pharmacist prior to visiting their doctor, stocking up on over the counter antihistamines, nasal sprays and eye drops but a blocked nose may hinder the effectiveness of these medicines.
“The difficulty is that by the time people go looking for help to the pharmacy they are already very blocked in the nose so a tip would be to buy a fast acting nasal decongestant just to unblock the nose so that the medicines that the chemist has given you will be more effective.
“If what the pharmacist gives you doesn’t work in about a week, it is important to make your way to your own doctor where there are a whole range of medicines available to make your summer much better,” he said.
Slievemore Clinic often treats those suffering from extreme hay fever, with treatment plans frequently involving grass pollen vaccination.
“Anyone who would come to this clinic would automatically be having a really unpleasant summer.
“Vaccination is becoming more popular with patients because they don’t like having to take a lot of medicine so if they can be vaccinated against the grass pollen they are increasingly turning to that as a way of preventing the misery of summer hay fever year after year."
Homeopathic remedies are not to be forgotten in the treatment of hay fever and Dr. Carson said that patients have experienced some relief from age old treatments.