We need to acknowledge the full impact of hay fever
Ears, Nose & Throat Hay fever is the one of UK’s the most common chronic illnesses, yet many sufferers have no choice but to battle through the – often debilitating - symptoms.
Roughly a quarter of the population suffer from hay fever and about half of sufferers have experienced symptoms that severely impact their quality of life. Hay fever can affect social activities, working life and sleep. For many, one or two months of the year are spent living with symptoms that are almost unbearable. The condition, which can develop at any stage in life, can also lead to further discomfort if it develops into sinusitis, infections or seasonal asthma
Children suffering through school
"Exam season coincides inconveniently with hayfever season."
For children, the condition is equally as tough. Hay fever doesn’t just stop them from enjoying the best months of the year; research has shown that hay fever can have an adverse effect on exam performance too. With GCSEs, A Levels and university finals all during the peak of the hay fever season, those with the condition could be at a disadvantage as they struggle through debilitating symptoms.
"People are put off that nasal sprays contain steroids."
Without a cure, all that most hay fever suffers can do is manage their symptoms. There are some very effective over-the-counter remedies such as antihistamine tablets and nasal sprays, but it’s important they are taken correctly. When it comes to nasal sprays, patients need to select hay fever sprays, not decongestant sprays. To achieve maximum benefit, they should be taken a few weeks before the symptoms start. The most effective ones contain corticosteroids. Some people are put off by the fact they contain steroids, yet the amount is tiny. In fact, an average adult naturally produces much higher levels of steroids in the body every day. When taken properly, sprays are a very effective way to manage symptoms.
Of course, there are some sufferers for whom the over-the-counter remedies make no difference at all. Seeking advice from a GP may result in a referral to a specialist allergy clinic where they could benefit from therapies such as immunotherapy - a technique that involves giving someone repeated exposure to pollen so the body changes the way it responds. Traditionally, immunotherapy has been administered via injections, on clinician’s premises, but developments in treatments mean it can now be taken under the tongue at home.
"Compared to EU countries, the UK has very few allergy specialists; provision varies greatly."
Due to high costs and resources, immunotherapy is not widely used. However, research and development continues to progress to improve the quality of life for the millions who battle through hay fever season every year.