5 Things you need to know about… hayfever
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Mr Samuel Jayaraj, ENT Consultant, on this common allergic condition
1. An explanation of hayfever and its causes.
The medical term for hayfever “allergic rhinitis” means inflammation in the nose due to allergy and this is usually caused by to a reaction to airborne substances. Although allergic rhinitis can occur all year round due to house dust mite, pets or moulds, hayfever usually refers to seasonal allergic rhinitis caused by tree pollen (in spring) or grass pollen (in summer).
It’s also known as hayfever because traditionally it used to occur during the “haying” season.
The airborne allergic substances or allergens causes a series of reactions in the lining of the nose that lead to symptoms such as sneezing, blocked or runny nose, itchy nose and eyes, coughing and lethargy. Treatment is aimed at stopping these reactions from occurring to stop symptoms from developing. It’s as if the immune system is actually over-reacting to the presence of the allergen.
2. The sudden occurrence of hayfever.
Stress, environmental factors such as pollution, smoking and diet can all impact on how the body reacts to allergens. So while you perhaps weren’t bothered by hayfever in younger years, you may get it now.
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3. Ways to lessen the symptoms.
Do your best to avoid the allergens that trigger your symptoms. If your hayfever is set off by grass pollen, avoid the garden when the lawn is being mowed, don’t dry your clothes and bed-sheets outdoors on a clothes line and keep your bedroom windows shut (to avoid sleeping on a pillow of pollen all night). Shower after you have been out in a pollen rich area. Consider wearing a surgical mask to prevent pollen from entering the nose.
If your child is desperate to play outdoors on a grassy area during hayfever season, use vaseline in the nostrils to catch pollen and prevent it entering the nose. Wash the lining of your nose with a nasal douche (such as Neilmed sinus rinse, Sterimar or saline nasal drops) to wash pollen out of your nose so that it can’t trigger allergic reactions leading to symptoms. Asthma can be made worse with hayfever so take any asthma medication regularly during the hayfever season.
4. The treatments available.
It’s best to try a combination of treatments. Firstly try to avoid the pollen allergens and if you do come into contact with them, wash your nose with a nasal douche (these can be bought in pharmacies).Take antihistamines and/or a nasal steroid spray to avoid or manage hayfever symptoms. Dymista nasal spray combines an antihistamine with a nasal steroid. People with asthma can benefit from a medicine called Montelukast which helps treat both the asthma and pollen allergy.
5. When to see a doctor
You should see a doctor if your symptoms are not responding to simple treatment, if symptoms are persistent or if you are developing sinusitis symptoms.
Allergy tests can be performed to identify the specific allergen causing your symptoms so that you can take the appropriate precautions to avoid them.
Surgery cannot cure allergy but it can often help the treatment. If the nasal sprays cannot penetrate the nose because it is so blocked or because the nasal septum is bent and blocking the nose then surgery can help. If nasal polyps have formed because of long-standing inflammation from the allergy then surgery can help. The recovery from sinus surgery performed by specialist rhinologists (nose and sinus surgeons) is much easier than before. I don’t use any nasal packing when I operate on the nose or sinuses and you can go home the same day.
Mr Samuel Jayaraj has clinics at The Holly Private Hospital on Monday, Tuesday and Friday evening, every Wednesday morning and alternate Thursday mornings. To book a consultation, call the appointments team on 020 8936 1201