Hayfever: Springs unwelcome sidekick

Hay fever is a common term referring to allergic rhinitis. It is an allergic reaction to allergens or triggers when breathed in via the nose, causing an immune response causing the nasal passages to become swollen and inflamed.

For some people they can have this problem all year round, which means the trigger is more likely to be dust mites, animal dander (shed from animal skin or hair), or mould spores. However, many people experience worsened hay fever symptoms at certain periods of the year, especially during Spring when plants tend to pollinate.

The most troublesome pollens tend to be airborne pollens produced by Northern Hemisphere grasses, trees and flowering weed species, according to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA).

Hay fever affects approximately 1 in 5 Australians, both adults and children. It is shown that it is more likely to occur if there is a family history of atopic allergies, particularly asthma or even eczema. In fact, hay fever occurs in 75-80 percent of people that suffer from asthma. Airborne allergens can cause allergic reactions not only in the nasal passages, but also in the lungs (asthma) and eyes (allergic conjunctivitis).

The symptoms of hay fever vary from person to person. Frequency and severity of these symptoms can range from mild (minimal symptoms with little impact on sleep and daily activities) to moderate or severe (abnormal sleep and impairment of work or school).

Common symptoms include:

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough from postnasal drip.

Hayfever complications can include:

  • Sleep disturbances (mouth breathing or snoring)
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Recurrent sinus infections
  • Difficulty in controlling asthma.

Simple tips for reducing pollen exposure:

Most people can relieve their symptoms with treatment – at least to a certain extent. Be sure to speak with your doctor if your symptoms persist as you may require prescription medication. In some instances, a referral to a clinical immunology/allergy specialist may be required for further assessment, including allergy testing.

Although there is no cure for hay fever, there are many ways to manage the symptoms over the counter including:

Your friendly community pharmacist at National Pharmacies will be able to help you navigate through the many hay fever treatments to find the one that best suits your needs.

Authors

Avril Ong, Pharmacist, National Pharmacies Clovercrest
Bec Rogers, Pharmacist, National Pharmacies Brighton