Spring is here, but so are those horrible spring allergy triggers! Itchy, sneezing, and a runny nose – it may feel like a cold but at this time of year there’s a good chance that you’re suffering from seasonal allergies. You and millions of others.
Luckily, there is effective medication to prevent and treat the symptoms of allergies, but you do need to know how to identify and manage your triggers.
Who gets them?
Hay fever is one of the most common allergic conditions, and while it usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years, you can get it at any age. You’re more likely to suffer from hay fever if there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema. In children, hay fever is more common in boys than in girls, but in adulthood, men and women are equally affected.
But what causes allergies?
Allergic reactions are caused by something as triggers, and the most common hay fever triggers include:
- Mould spores
- Grass, tree and weed pollen
- Dust mite and cockroach allergens
- Rodent, cat, and dog dander
How can I control hay fever?
The most important step is to identify what your particular trigger is, and to stay away from it. But if you have an allergic reaction to pollen, it may not be that easy. Your pharmacist or doctor can guide you to the most effective medication – such as nasal sprays, inhaled corticosteroids, oral anti-histamines, anti-histamine eye drops, and decongestants.
If you have mild seasonal allergies, nasal sprays, inhalants and oral anti-histamines are useful for managing everyday symptoms.
Anti-histamines aren’t addictive, but they can become less effective if you use them too often. Chat to your pharmacist about changing brands every few months, to get the best effect. Also remember to ask about side effects such as drowsiness, which can be dangerous if you need to drive or operate machinery.
Oral decongestants might not be best for allergies because they’re meant to only be used for 7 days, or less, and your seasonal allergy may last for months. If decongestants are used for longer than a week, you can end up with rebound congestion. This is where congestion returns and worsens every time the medication wears off. Also, oral decongestants carry the risk of serious side-effects, such as heart palpitations or elevated blood pressure.
How can I reduce hay fever symptoms?
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you are outdoors
- Change your clothes and take a shower after being outdoors, to remove any pollen on your body and in your hair
- Stay indoors as much as possible when the pollen count is high (over 50)