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Whilst many of us open our arms to the summer, for hay fever sufferer the warm, pollen filled days aren’t always smiled upon.

Itchy eyes, runny noses, coughs and sneezes are usually associated with winter colds and flu, but hay fever can bring summer misery and pain.

It is thought that around a quarter of the population suffers with hay fever. Men and women are equally affected, symptoms can start at any age, seriousness changes year to year and some people find it become less severe as they get older.

So, let’s start with the basics.

Basically, you will suffer with hay fever if you have an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is a fine powder that is released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. The proteins in pollen can cause the eyes, nose, throat and sinuses to become inflamed, irritated and swollen.

The pollen forecast is usually given with the weather in the summer and this is how things tend to be described:

  • Low is less than 30 grains of pollen per cubic metre of air
  • Moderate is 30 to 49 grains of pollen per cubic metre of air
  • High is 50 to 149 grains of pollen per cubic metre of air
  • Very high is 150 plus grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air

In general, symptoms often start once the pollen count hits 50.

The main types of pollen people are allergic to are:

  • Tree pollen which is released during the spring
  • Grass pollen which is released at the end of spring and in the start of summer
  • Weed pollen, such as dock, mugwort and nettles, tends to be released late autumn, but far less people react to this

The most common symptoms of hay fever are:

  • Blocked, watery, runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Itchy, running, red eyes
  • Constant sneezing

Other symptoms people experience include:

  • Disrupted sleep and tiredness
  • Earache
  • Headaches
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Sinus pain
  • Sore throat
  • Worsening asthma symptoms

It is worth noting that if you suffer from, or there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema, you may be more susceptible to hay fever.

The obvious way to control hay fever is to avoid exposure to pollen but this really isn’t viable unless you stay inside with all windows and doors closed. Despite all the advances in modern medicine, to date there is no cure for hay fever. The good news is that in the most, symptoms can be relieved.

Over-the-counter medication from your pharmacist can be used for hay fever. Antihistamines can help prevent an allergic reaction from happening in the first place. It is a good idea to take these before your nose and eyes start to run and a regular dose will keep the drug in your system to fight off the pesky pollen. Corticosteroids can also be taken and these help bring down inflammation and swelling.

Eye drops and nasal sprays can help a blocked nose and itchy eyes so take them with you wherever you go along with plenty of clean tissues.

If your symptoms get too much then it it’s worth speaking to your GP, as you may require prescription medication. Some people choose to try a treatment called ‘immunotherapy’ which involves pollen exposure over time to build up resistance. This is done via an injection or pill in severe cases but it can take months or years to work so you will need to use other option to start with at least.

As well as medication, there are some easy steps you can take to help ease the pain of hay fever.

  • Try to stay inside as much as you can when there is a high pollen count
  • Wear sunglasses outside to stop pollen getting in your eyes – wrap around models are preferable
  • Take a shower and change your clothes when you have been outside to remove the pollen on your body and wash your sunglasses too
  • Apply a little bit of Vaseline at the bottom of your nose as this can actually trap pollen grains
  • Try and have a good diet and add extra vitamins and local honey because whilst they won’t stop the allergic reaction they will help keep your immune system strong

Good luck and it you have top tips for living with hay fever, let us know.