Dr Alison Gardiner on the best ways to treat hay fever
- Credit: Archant
Around 16 million people in the UK suffer from hay fever. Dr Alison Gardiner reveals why it is one of the most common allergic conditions and how to treat it
With the arrival of spring, the number of patients visiting our practice seeking treatment for hay fever is on the increase. Affecting up to one in five people at some point during their lifetime, sufferers may experience itchy, sore eyes and throat, sneezing and a runny nose.
Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen, but similar symptoms can occur all year round in response to dust, moulds or pet dander. Tiny particles irritate the nose, eyes and sinuses causing them to become swollen and inflamed.
Sufferers can be allergic to different types of pollen which can produce symptoms at peak times of the year these include:
• Tree pollen, released during spring
• Grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer
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• Weed pollen, released any time from early spring to late autumn
Sufferers usually become aware of this allergy in childhood or as a teenager, but I have seen patients presenting later on in life, even in their 50s. Some sufferers’ symptoms improve with age and a lucky 10-20 per cent of adults find their symptoms disappear completely.
While the condition does not pose a significant health risk, the symptoms can have a very negative effect on the sufferer’s overall quality of life. In severe cases, it can impact on attendance and productivity at school and work, so is not as trivial a complaint as is often perceived.
Currently, no cure has been found for hay fever but certain measures can relieve the symptoms. The best option is to control exposure to pollen and the following tips may be useful:
• Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen while outside.
• Stay indoors when the pollen count is high, particularly in the early morning, evening and at night.
• Don’t have fresh flowers indoors.
• Shower and change your clothes to remove pollen on arriving home.
• Don’t smoke, this also irritates your nose, eyes and sinuses, worsening your symptoms.
• Apply Vaseline to your lower nostrils to prevent pollen from entering.
• Hoover and dust with a damp cloth regularly.
Many symptoms of hay fever can be managed through treatment options such as antihistamines for prevention and nasal sprays to reduce the swelling. However, for more persistent and troublesome cases it is recommended that sufferers make an appointment with a GP who can confirm the diagnosis and offer allergy testing.
Dr Alison Gardiner
Dr Alison Gardiner started The Private GP practice at Nuffield Health Bournemouth 18 years ago with Dr Steven Kidman. In cases of hay fever Dr Gardiner can work with patients to identify the most effective course of treatment to help control the symptoms. To book a private consultation with Dr Gardiner, call the Nuffield Health Customer Services team on 01202 375032 or visit nuffieldhealth.com/hospitals/bournemouth.