Enjoy Summer – Hate Hayfever? Tips and Treatments
When winter is finally over, nothing feels better than longer days and spending time outside in the warm spring sun, especially this year after enduring restrictions for what seems for ever. However, for some people it can mean the return of the dreaded Hayfever Season and an extended period of sneezing, puffy streaming eyes, and a runny nose.
So what is Hayfever? What symptoms are involved? How best can it be treated? And is there any way to enjoy summer walks in the park?
What is Hayfever?
Many allergies, especially hay fever, are caused by the inhalation of certain substances (allergens) in the air.
- Allergic Rhinitis commonly called hayfever may be distinguished from other allergies because it is seasonal, usually occurring in the spring/summer months. Common trigger substances include pollen from grass, weeds, flowers and tree pollen.
- If the symptoms occur all year round then these are typically triggered by dust, animal dander or mould spores. This is called perennial rhinitis.
About 25% of all Europeans suffer some type of nasal/chest allergies and 15% of the population have complex allergy problems. Ireland has the fourth highest hayfever sufferers in the world and 10% of children and young adults have more than one allergic disorder (eczema, asthma and rhinitis).
What symptoms are involved?
An allergy occurs when the body's immune system over-reacts and releases histamine in response to normally harmless substances (called allergens). Histamine causes blood vessels to expand and the skin to swell and causes the symptoms associated with hay fever.
- Runny Nose.
- Itchy and Watery Eyes (Allergic Conjunctivitis).
- Stuffy Nose (Congestion).
- Itchy in the nose, eyes or the roof of the mouth.
- Can also cause localised skin reactions in severe cases.
Given that some of the symptoms are similar to those experienced by patients suffering from COVID-19, here is a handy table comparing Covid-19 and Hayfever.
How to treat Hay fever?
When treating hay fever one must remember to treat the symptoms early, particularly if you have a history of hay fever. Beginning hay fever treatments before the hay fever season begins is often a great way to ward off any extreme suffering.
Conjunctivitis (eye allergy) is always linked with nose and sinus allergy and all three conditions should be tackled together. When treating hay fever, each patient should be dealt with based on their individual symptoms, as hay fever affects people differently. When treating people who suffer from hay fever, a combination of products used over prolonged periods usually work the best.
There are many Over the Counters (OTC) medications to treat the symptoms associated with Hayfever. They come in all different forms to best suit your needs, whether it be small once a day tablets, nasal sprays, nasal rinses or eye drops.
Products used to treat Hay Fever?
The first line treatment for all patients who suffer from hay fever is an anti-histamine preparation. Anti-histamines help stop the allergic reaction from happening in the first place before you come in contact with pollen or they can reduce the severity of allergy symptoms if you take them afterwards.
Telfast (120mg Fexofenadine) has recently come off prescription and is usually first line as it gives multi symptom relieve, is lactose free and there is no overall impairment or drowsiness with this antihistamine.
Telfast has very few side effects, lasts for 24 hours but can cause some sleep disturbances if taken late at night and should not be taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Telfast is not suitable for patients with kidney or liver problems, patients with irregular or fast heartbeat or if elderly.
Cetrine Allergy, which contains Cetirizine 10mg and Lorat Allergy, which contains Loratadine 10mg are also non-drowsy anti-histamines tablets which are commonly used to help alleviate hay fever symptoms.
If you are one of those patients that suffer from interrupted sleep due to allergies a drowsy antihistamine such as Piriton, which contains Chlorphenamine 4mg, can be very helpful. Piriton can also be used for people who suffer from skin rashes or irritations due to allergies.
Because hay fever affects little ones as well as adults Cetrine (1mg/ml) is available in a banana flavour liquid. It can be used in children from 2-6 years, the dose is 2.5ml twice daily and the dose for children from 6-12years is 5mls twice daily.
As mentioned already in order to give maximum relief from hayfever symptoms multi products can be used in combination to help with specific symptoms. Nasal sprays and rinses are also available Over the Counter (OTC) for treatment of hayfever symptoms.
Steroid nasal sprays work by reducing inflammation (swelling) that has occurred due to the allergy and help alleviate irritation in the nose. Their action is localised, and they have no adverse effects on the rest of the body (do not cause drowsiness).
In order for the full benefit to be obtained from steroid nasal sprays regular use is essential and treatment should be continued throughout the hay fever season. These products can take several days before the full treatment effect is reached and patients who suffer from hay fever every year should start these products in March/April to prevent onset of the symptoms.
Nasacort Allergy (Triamcinolone Acetonide) nasal spray is another product that used to be only available on prescription but is now available OTC. It gives 24hr relief from nasal congestions, sneezing, runny and/or itchy nose and begins working within 12 hours of first dose although it may take a few days to build up to its maximum effect. It is suitable for adults only but is safe to use with most prescription medications.
Becodefence and Becodefence Plus Allergy Nasal Spray is a drug free alternative barrier treatment for fast hay fever relief and can be safely used in pregnancy and breast feeding.
- Patented formula deactivates pollen in the nose without irritating the nasal mucosa.
- Unique microgel formula forms an impermeable layer on the mucosa for protection against pollen irritation.
- Also stimulates the clearance of pollen from the body.
- Becodefence can give protection for 4-6 hours and can be used up to three times a day.
- Becodefence Kids has a smaller nozzle and is suitable for children from 6-12years.
Nasal rinses and saline sprays can be use on a daily basis to help clean and clear out pollen from nasal passages. They also can be used safely with other allergy treatments.
Neilmed Sinus Rinse Kit contains a custom-designed cap, a rinse bottle 240ml, and 60 mixture formula sachets, which contain ingredients with the precise concentration that makes a soothing, therapeutic nasal rinse solution. The easy squeeze bottle provides a smooth flow of solution that thoroughly cleans the nasal passages, beyond what can be achieved by saline nasal sprays.
However some people do not like the sensation so a product like Sterimar which is a 100% natural drug-free range containing seawater which is rich in salts, minerals and trace elements. Sterimar cleanses and eliminates impurities in the nasal passage and facilitates breathing. The Hayfever and Allergy Relief Sterimar spray is an easy way to remove pollen and other allergens from the nose. Sterimar is also suitable from 3 years and older making it ideal for the entire family.
Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable symptoms of hayfever are red, itchy, watery, puffy eyes. Most eye products that are used to treat hay fever symptoms contain sodium cromoglycate which works by preventing the release of histamine from mast cells in the body and therefore reducing symptoms associated with allergies.
Opticrom allergy eye drops is available in a multidose bottle or in convenient single dose units that can be taken with you while you travel or work. The recommended dose is 1-2 drops into each eye up to four times daily. Opticrom can be used in patients who are wearing soft contact lenses - however, they should be removed and not inserted for 15 minutes after application.
Other eye drop products on the Irish market to treat allergy symptoms contain Ectoin which is a natural cell-protective molecule with inflammation reducing and membrane stabilising properties. When used it stops histamine from been reduced thus reducing allergy symptoms and allergic conjunctivitis.
Fussion Allergy SDU eye drops and Hylo-Dual eye drops (also contains Sodium Hyaluronate) are two of the best examples of eye drops that contain Ectoin. These products are suitable for contact lens wearers and are suitable for all ages but children under 10 years should be assisted in using the drops.
Hay-bands are also available to help alleviate hayfever symptoms. These bands are another natural drug-free, non-drowsy product that are designed to apply a small amount of pressure on the LI-11 acupressure points on either side of the arm. They can be used once hayfever symptoms have begun but can also be used as a preventative measure. These bands can be worn by adults and children from the age of 3.
It is important to note that despite the fact that hay-bands are drug-free, these are NOT to be used in pregnancy. The LI-11 pressure points have been used to assist in the onset of labour so must be avoided.
Salin Plus is an award-winning medical device that combines the functionality of traditional air purifiers with the healing qualities of salt therapy in one, easy to use device. The device removes airborne pollutants, such as dust and pollen whilst releasing tiny, therapeutic salt ions that aid a clean and consistent sleep.
Salin Plus Salt Therapy benefits people with many respiratory conditions including hayfever, asthma, cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, sinusitis, sleep apnoea, tuberculosis and many other respiratory and allergy conditions and people with breathing difficulties. Use is recommended mainly at night so as to ensure minimum exposure to the environment of 8 hours a day.
Remember to change the salt filer once every 2-3 months.
Practical Tips to allow you and your family go on summer walks
While hayfever can be very severe for some sufferers we cannot afford to be locked away indoors for 3-4 months every year. Here is some practical advice to help reduce the severity of hayfever symptoms.
- Check the pollen count on a daily basis (https://www.met.ie/forecasts/pollen) so you can plan outdoor activities. Dry and windy days are the worst for pollen sufferers especially in areas with lots of trees and grass.
- Close your windows especially in the early morning 5-10 am and at dusk when the pollen count is the highest.
- When coming back inside from outdoors make sure to remove your shoes, change your clothes and wash your hands and face. Hayfever Relief Wipes are designed to remove and trap pollen, dust and pet allergens before they affect you.
- Use inside racks or dryers for laundry and avoid hanging washing out when pollens are very high to avoid bringing it into the home.
- A small amount of Vaseline or even better Hay Max, which is an organic allergen barrier balm, rubbed around the rim of the nostrils and the eyes helps trap pollen and other allergens. Hay Max comes in Aloe Vera or non scented.
- Hay fever sufferers may be very sensitive to light and a good pair of sunglasses should be recommended. Sunglasses will also keep pollen out of the eyes.
Our expert staff are always here to help you if you are looking for any hay fever advice. If you have any questions or would like any personalised advice please contact any of our stores by phone or email. Contact details for each branch are available on our website yourlocalpharmacy.ie