Hayfever: Spring’s unwelcome sidekick

Hayfever: Spring’s unwelcome sidekick

Hayfever 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 and 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 can experience worsened hayfever 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).

Hayfever 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, hayfever occurs in 75-80 percent of people that suffer from asthma, while 20-30 percent of hayfever sufferers are subsequently found to have asthma. The airborne allergens can cause allergic reactions to not only the nasal passages, but also in the lungs (asthma) and eyes (allergic conjunctivitis).

The symptoms of hayfever vary from person to person. Frequency and severity of these symptoms could range from mild (minimal symptoms with 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:

• Avoid going out during peak pollen season, on windy days or before/after thunderstorms.
• Avoid activities that are known to trigger to hayfever symptoms e.g. mowing the lawn.
• Switch to re-circulated air within the car when pollen levels are high and keep windows shut.
• Check if there are particular species of weeds or trees that cause hayfever sensitivity and see if it is possible to have them removed.

Most people are able to 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 hayfever, there are many ways to manage the symptoms over the counter:

• Antihistamine tablets or syrups can reduce symptoms of sneezing, itchy and irritating eyes/nose.
• Decongestant sprays can work to help unblock and dry the nose. Antihistamines are normally preferred, as the decongestant sprays should not be used for more than a few days as they can cause rebound effects.
• Decongestant tablets should always be used with caution as they can sometimes interact with prescription medications (e.g. blood pressure tablets).
• For those that suffer from moderate hayfever, an intranasal corticosteroid nasal spray has a better effect on inflammation. These have to be used regularly to further prevent hayfever symptoms. There are various strengths and effectiveness so always check with a pharmacist the best option to suit your needs.
• There are natural products such as salt water nasal sprays or douches, which are both safe and effective in relieving symptoms and clearing excess mucus. It is recommended to use these in conjunction with other treatments.


Avril Ong, Pharmacist, National Pharmacies Norwood


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