Sneezes and wheezes
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Sneezes and wheezes

From InterAction 95, spring 2017

Do you struggle with hay fever symptoms? Here are some tips for managing hay fever from our volunteer pharmacist, Emily Beardall, and from hay fever sufferers on our Facebook page.

Emily says: Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is a common condition causing sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes. It can be helpful to work out which particular pollen or pollens you’re allergic to. The main pollens troublesome for hay fever sufferers are tree pollen, grass pollen and weed pollen.

The most effective way of preventing allergies is to avoid the cause, or the allergen, as much as is practical, giving hay fever medication a better chance to work. The following tips are also helpful if you cannot take medication:

  • Follow the Met Office’s pollen count forecast on their website and weather reports so that you’re prepared.
  • On days where the pollen count is over 50 grains per cubic metre of air, stay indoors with the windows closed.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to prevent as much pollen as possible reaching your eyes.
  • Pharmacies sell a wax to put just inside your nose to trap pollen before it enters your nose and sinuses, though Vaseline is cheap and works just as well.
  • Avoid the shade, as the cooler air falls, bringing pollen down with it.
  • After being outside, have a shower and change your clothes, as pollen can get trapped in hair/clothing.
  • If you’re allergic to grass pollen, avoid freshly mown grass.

Some people recommend locally produced honey for hay fever, though this is anecdotal as research has shown it not to be effective. Dried stinging nettle has weak evidence of effectiveness, and can interact with many common medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. As with all herbal remedies, check with your pharmacist whether they interact with your medication before taking them.

If you find that antihistamine tablets are not effective, talk to your pharmacist about trying a steroid nasal spray and allergy eye drops. They can show you how to use these correctly. It can take a few days for preventative medication to work, so it’s a good idea to start them just before hay fever season.

If a combination of these tips and antihistamines isn’t helping, or if you have asthma which is worsened with hay fever, see your GP as there are stronger antihistamines available on prescription.

Your recommended hay fever remedies

Lubricant and saline rinse “Aquagel (as a barrier and lubricant, q-tipped inside nose) and Sterimar (a saline spray) to rinse out nose and aid congestion relief as well as remove allergens.” – James Thompson

Nasal gel “I can’t use any antihistamine so I found AllergieBLOCK – it’s fab, you rub on your nose and top lip, works straight away and you can put it on as much as needed.” – Susan Allan

Cold wet flannel “Eyes swollen and so painful that I sat here all evening with a cold wet flannel on my eyes. This helped enough that I could then get to sleep.” – Lucy Hunt

Prescription drugs “I’ve been on Montelukast for about 18 months, made a massive difference to hay fever and other allergy symptoms. Can recommend.” – Amanda O’Neill Emily adds: This is prescription-only and is mainly used for allergies in people with severe asthma.

Gluten-free diet “I stopped eating gluten and dairy five years ago after being a severe sufferer....not one sneeze since! Worked for my son too, no more inhalers, drops or pills.” – Kia Michaels Emily adds: Seek the advice of your health professional before excluding foods to make sure you still get the essential nutrients your body needs.

Night Nurse “I found that Night Nurse liquid helped me sleep last night.” – Christine Barton

Emily adds: Night Nurse is available over the counter from your pharmacy. It contains a drowsy antihistamine, which can be a helpful for sleep but be aware that the drowsiness can continue into the next day and affects reaction speed, making it unsafe to drive