What is Hay Fever?
Hay Fever (or Allergic Rhinitis) is a common allergic reaction due to pollen (a fine powder released by nature – trees, grass and weeds), which can cause irritation to the eyes, throat, nose and sinuses. Our immune system treats Hay Fever like a harmless threat to our bodies, and that’s why symptoms stick around if untreated; It’s most commonly associated with spring, although can affect people anytime of the year.
There are two types of Hay Fever: Seasonal Hay Fever is generally caused by airborne pollens and outdoor mould spores. Perennial Hay Fever, triggered by allergens such as household dust, animal dander, hair, fur, dog saliva, feathers or mould spores, can flare up at any time of the year.
Some symptoms include:
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
- Headaches – possible due to congested sinuses
- Runny or blocked nose
- Itchy ears, nose or dry throat
1. Pinpointing Your Allergy
Knowing the cause of your Hay Fever is key in combating the symptoms, and is the first step towards a healthy, happy you! You may already know from experience, that you are affected by tree or grass pollen in spring or ragweed (on the East Coast) in autumn. Don’t worry, if you aren’t sure yet, see your doctor to help diagnose the cause.
Causes of Hay Fever
It is commonly thought that the pollen from flowers causes your irritation, although this is unlikely, unless you have a lot of contact with them (so, if you’re a florist and suffer from Hay Fever, you may want to think about a career change).
Commonly, Hay Fever is caused by wind-pollinated plants like grass, trees and ragweed.
- Tree Pollen: Common in spring.
- Grass Pollen: Common between the end of spring and mid-summer (December/January).
- Weed Pollen: Common between early spring and late autumn.
2. Keep an Eye on Your Local Pollen Count
There are plenty of websites which measure daily pollen levels (below are links for a few Australian cities), if your city is not listed, check out AccuWeather and enter your city to find out the level today.
Local Pollen Count Forecast
3. Try to Stay Indoors on High Pollen Days
If you suffer from severe Hay Fever, you should stay indoors, especially between 5AM and 10AM, as this is when the pollen count tends to be the highest. You can also use an air conditioner to minimise the effects, although be sure to keep the filter clean to prevent spreading the allergens. Pets can also carry pollen in with them after a run in the park, so give them a quick wipe before bringing them back inside.
4. If You Go Outside, Take a Shower After
Taking a shower when you get home helps remove pollen from your skin and hair, especially before bed; Washing your hair when the pollen count is high, can help prevent untimely and irritating night-time allergy attacks – helping ensure you have a peaceful rest and feel refreshed in the morning! Wearing a scarf and goggles can also help reduce exposure to allergens when walking or cycling.
5. Avoid Smoke and Other Irritants
Smoke (including second-hand smoke and smoky environments), bug sprays, fresh paint, and other household chemicals can worsen your Hay Fever symptoms, and may be helpful to avoid... Avoiding smoking is also beneficial to our general health and wellbeing!
6. Allergy-Proofing Your Home
It is impossible to make your home 100% allergy-proof, although there are a few things you can do to limit allergens entering your home. When the pollen level is high, keep your windows and doors closed, use synthetic allergy-free pillow and mattress covers, allow sunlight in to prevent mould, wash your clothes often, keep pets out of your bedroom, and (if possible) remove carpets and decorative furnishing (like throw pillows).
7. Remember Most Air Purifiers Are Not Helpful
If you choose to use an air purifier, ensure it has a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter. Scientific research has shown air purifiers have little to no effect on allergens, and small purifiers can’t remove dust or pollen, and some (electrostatic precipitators) can aggravate symptoms by polluting indoor air with ozone.
8. Check the Air Conditioner in Your Car
Some cars have pollen filters installed in the air conditioner to minimise pollutants that enter your car. If your car does not have a filter, you can minimise the impact of pollen when driving by opening your window for 10 minutes after turning on the AC, and direct the air vents away from your face. Some air conditioners can also increase your exposure to airborne spores that can trigger Hay Fever symptoms; if you have severe reactions to Hay Fever, you may want to have your air conditioner specially treated with a disinfectant, available at most service centres.
9. Ask Your Doctor about Possible Treatments
It is difficult to avoid every allergy trigger, therefore over-the-counter or prescription medicines are available to ease symptoms. You may be advised to try:
Treatments for Hay Fever
a. Intranasal Corticosteroid Sprays: These sprays need to be used regularly, and are one of the most effective treatments, as they contain very-low dose steroids.
b. Non-Sedating Antihistamine Medications: Are effective in controlling sneezing and itching, but not as effective in treating severely blocked noses or runny noses. If you are breast-feeding, some medications can cause breastfed babies to become irritated and restless; ask your doctor for advice before using these products.
c. Decongestant Nasal Sprays: Are useful for instant relief, although should not be used for five consecutive days, as they can cause long-term damage to nasal lining. People who are pregnant or have high blood pressure should avoid decongestants, so check with your doctor before using these products.
d. Eye Drops: May help relieve itchy, swollen or watery eyes; ask your doctor for advice on choosing the correct eye drops.
10. Natural Remedies for Relieving Hay Fever
Reducing your intake of histamines found in tomatoes, oranges, cheese (and dairy products), and chocolate, which increases mucous production.
Hay Fever and Asthma
Lastly, if you have from asthma, symptoms (coughing, wheezing, tightness of chest and shortness of breath) may worsen when you suffer from Hay Fever; and having Hay Fever increases your chances of developing asthma threefold. Hay Fever symptoms worsen on hot days, although asthma attacks due to pollen are most likely to occur during thunderstorms, as the humidity causes soluble grass pollen to spray in a fine mist, which is easily inhaled.
These steps in conjunction with taking an antihistamine should provide much needed relief from Hay Fever, no matter the time of year. So you can stay active, healthy and happy!