When the sun comes out, trees grow new leaves and flowers start to bloom. However, many of us start to experience hay fever.
Hay fever is a common condition also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. It affects around one in five of us in the UK and can affect people between March and September. Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen; the fine powder produced by trees, flowers and weeds, with symptoms which include sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose and headaches.
Although hay fever is often harmless, unfortunately there is no cure, so healthcare professionals suggest avoiding pollen as well as managing symptoms. Effective over-the-counter treatments are readily available from pharmacies and supermarkets and include antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops.
“A lot of people book a GP appointment for advice on hay fever, which isn’t needed. It’s far better to ask your local pharmacist if you’re not sure what treatment is suitable for the symptoms you have.
“Pharmacists are highly trained clinicians, and you can visit at a time that suits you. We have a range of over-the-counter treatments in stock, including nasal sprays, eye drops and tablets which are often far cheaper than prescriptions.
“A simple nasal spray costs £8 in a pharmacy, tablets cost from £3 and eyedrops from £5 but on prescription all these items would be £9.65 each. It’s far cheaper, easier and quicker for patients to come to their pharmacist for support with hay fever.”Gareth Harris, a Shropshire-based pharmacist
Tips to manage hay fever symptoms
For those looking to manage their symptoms as effectively as possible, the following handy tips are well worth trying:
- If possible, stay indoors when the pollen count is high. To check the pollen count in your area, the Met Office provides up-to-date information on the pollen forecast for five days ahead.
- Plan outdoor activities for afternoons. Pollen levels are at their highest in the morning, rising with the warming air, and again in the evening when it’s cooling down. Keep windows and doors closed during these times.
- Don’t hang clothes out to dry as they may pick up pollen.
- Protect your eyes and mouth. Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses and use petroleum jelly around your nostrils to trap pollen.
- Shower and change when you come indoors to wash pollen off.
- Avoid large grassy areas, woodland, cutting the grass, pollutants and car fumes.
- Pick up over-the-counter treatments during your weekly supermarket shop, so you always have some available in your medicine cabinet at home.
Advice can also be obtained from the NHS website.