Common signs and symptoms of hay fever include:
- Red, watery or itchy eyes
- A runny or blocked nose
- Itchy throat, nose and ears
- Pain around the forehead and temples
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder released by plants that containing proteins. The body releases histamine in response to the proteins and this can cause swelling, irritation and inflammation of the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses.
There are different types of pollen that appear at different times of the year:
- Tree pollen (Spring)
- Grass pollen (Summer)
- Weed pollen (Late autumn)
Many people find their symptoms improve as they age and symptoms disappear altogether in around 10 to 20% of people.
You can try to minimise hay fever by:
- Putting Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
- Staying indoors
- Keeping windows and doors closed as much as possible
However there are variety of treatments available from the pharmacy to help provide relief from hay fever for example;
- Anti-histamine tablets, syrup and eye drops
- Nasal sprays
Antihistamines block the action of the chemical histamine which stops the symptoms of the allergic reaction. They are effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes but they may not help with congestion. They can be used to treat symptoms or to prevent them.
Tablets and syrup
There are two groups of antihistamines, those that cause drowsiness and those that don’t.
Antihistamines for hay fever that cause drowsiness include:
- Chlorphenamine (Piriton, available as tablet and syrup)
Antihistamines that don’t cause drowsiness:
- Cetirizine (Piriteze, available as tablet and syrup)
- Loratadine (Zirtek)
- Acrivastine (Benadryl)
If you do become drowsy after taking antihistamines, you should avoid driving or using heavy tools or machinery. You should also contact your GP or pharmacist, as there may be an alternative antihistamine you can take.
Steroid nasal sprays, also called corticosteroid nasal sprays, are anti-inflammatory medicines that you spray into your nose. They can be used to treat a range of conditions, including hay fever, sinusitis, non-allergic rhinitis and nasal polyps.
Some steroid nasal sprays are available to buy from pharmacies such as Beconase, Pollenase and Pirinase. If you are taking any other medications, check with the pharmacist that this is safe to take.
Other nasal sprays are available that treat the congestion associated with hay fever, sinusitis and allergic rhinitis (such as Otrivine Allergy Relief Nasal Spray). These contain xylometazoline which works by narrowing the blood vessels in the linings of the nasal passages and sinuses. This reduces swelling, the production of mucus and congestion.
These should not be used for more than 7 days as they cause rebound congestion.
For many people, red and itchy eyes are a major symptom of hay fever.
Drops containing sodium cromoglicate (Opticrom Allergy Eye drops and Optrex Hayfever relief) inhibit the release of histamine to relieve irritating eye symptoms in just two minutes and the relief can last for up to 4 hours.
If you are taking any other medications, check with the pharmacist that this preparation is safe to take.