Head of Clinical Services, Allergy UK
Sunny days bring dreams of sitting in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and having fun outdoors for many. But, if you have hay fever, it can be quite the opposite. Debilitating symptoms can make everyday life impractical and force big changes to your daily routine.
Allergic rhinitis is common and affects 10–15% of children and 26% of adults in the UK. It affects quality of life, school and work attendance, and is a risk factor for development of asthma.
For some people with hay fever, symptoms can be relatively mild and managed effectively with over-the-counter medication. However, for people who suffer more severe symptoms, it can make life a misery.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can cause sleep deprivation, lethargy and impaired concentration, combined with a poor sense of smell and taste, which may make many unfit to work.
It’s not just the inconvenience of having to ensure you constantly carry tissues, but it can be embarrassing at work and social events.
For some pollen-allergic people, hay fever can restrict outdoor sports such as running, cycling and cricket, due to chest tightness. And if it’s your job to mow the lawn, it can be a very miserable experience in the summer months.
Hay fever can be difficult to manage
Katie Wood’s 12-year-old daughter, Emma, suffers from hay fever alongside managing a number of food allergies. She says the summer is a particularly difficult time of year because it leads to her having to avoid situations regularly.
“If Emma sits on the grass, she gets hives and itchy red patches where her skin makes contact with the grass. Her eyes itch and water, her nose runs and her face gets the classic allergic rhinitis pattern of redness around the eyes and mouth. It also brings on asthma.
“It means that, at break and lunchtime, she needs to stay indoors and it’s particularly difficult when the grass is being cut at school. We now have various coping strategies that we need to think about during hay fever season. This includes making sure she’s taking the right medication, not hanging her clothes or bedsheets on the washing line and showering every day as soon as she comes home to remove pollen from her hair and skin.
This may sound silly, but that’s a bit of a faff for a young teen who wants to slump on the sofa after a long day at school. I even have to limit the amount of time Emma pets the dog during the pollen season as the dog carries pollen into the house on his coat. This is in addition to making sure she’s avoiding foods she’s allergic to, so it can be hard for her at times.”
Emma’s story isn’t unusual – having to change her daily routine to manage symptoms is a part of life for many people with hay fever and it can be difficult to manage.
It’s really important that symptoms are treated to reduce the impact on your life where possible. This can include nasal balms that act as an allergen barrier when applied around the outside of the nostrils, antihistamines and topical nasal corticosteroids.
Research also shows that a combined antihistamine and nasal steroid spray is effective and popular with those living with hay fever due to the speed with which it reduces symptoms. However, this is a prescription-only medication.
Over-the-counter medication, such as nasal saline douching, can also be effective. Managing triggers can also help reduce the impact on everyday life. If you’re experiencing symptoms and they’re affecting you, speak to your GP.
You can also visit Allergy UK at www.allergyuk.org for more information and advice on managing the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. There is a healthcare professional part of the website where clinicians can find important information and resources that may help in their clinical practice.