If you suffer from hay fever, you will of course know that we are slap bang in the middle of hay fever season! The medical term for this is seasonal rhinitis and we hope you will find this outline of the condition that follows along with information on the treatments available useful.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is a seasonal illness that is caused by an allergy to pollen. It most commonly affects people from March to July. Pollen is produced by plants as they are trying to reproduce and unfortunately it has the potential to irritate the eyes, throat, nose or sinus of susceptible people. When the pollen irritates us as mentioned it can cause inflammation which leads to symptoms of seasonal rhinitis which we will get to shortly.
Who gets hay fever?
Hay fever affects about 20% of Irish people and happily most grow out of the condition as they get older though unfortunately not all do. It can run in families and is often commoner in people who suffer with asthma or eczema. It mostly develops in children or teenagers though it can develop at any age.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
- A runny, blocked or itchy nose
- Sneezing or an itchy throat
- Red, itchy and runny eyes
How can you diagnose hay fever?
We can usually diagnose hay fever (seasonal rhinitis) in the surgery based on your symptoms, your history of these symptoms and your examination. If you have previously responded well to the medications we usually prescribe for rhinitis then this can be a good indicator that the diagnosis is correct. We only rarely need to send people for blood or other testing. The main reasons for this would be if we are unsure of the diagnosis, your symptoms are very severe or are not responding to the usual treatments.
What treatments are available?
There are a huge number of medications available, from nasal sprays (steroid, antihistamine or a combination of the two), and eye drops (‘mast cell stabilisers’) to antihistamine tablets (some that make you drowsy and some that do not).
- Nasal sprays (Avamys, Nasonex & Dymista etc.)
- Antihistamine tablets (Zirtek, Piriton, Telfast, Lorat etc.)
- Eye drops (Opticrom)
We are happy to go through things with you and decide what is best for you. For example, if you operate heavy machinery or lead a busy lifestyle, a non-drowsy medication may be best for you!
What about pollen? Doesn’t that cause all my symptoms?
Yes it certainly does, though avoiding it completely is almost impossible. You can always check the pollen count in Ireland, and this is a useful indicator as to how likely you are to have symptoms as the higher it is the worse it will potentially be for you. If your symptoms are unmanageable you could try staying indoors on bad days though this is naturally difficult to accomplish. Avoiding cutting grass, camping, playing golf or other similar grass based activities may help. Wraparound sunglasses may protect your eyes and a pollen filter in your car may make car journeys that bit easier!
- NHS Choices facts on hay fever
- Treating hay fever (the HSE)
- Steroid nasal sprays
- Fact sheets from Australian agencies
We are delighted to see patients of all ages who have been suffering with symptoms of hay fever to go through medication and other treatment options. Just call us on 01-8461335 or 01-8038881 for an appointment. Alternatively you can e-mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred day, time and doctor and we will do our best to accommodate you.
This blog post was written by Dr. Niall