Travel Health Service Acute Hay Fever
Enviromental health risks

Hay Fever

What is hay fever?

Hay fever, otherwise known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to airborne substances such as pollen that get into the upper respiratory passages - the nose, sinus, throat - and also the eyes. It is related to asthma and eczema and all of them are allergic disorders that commonly run in family. Hay fever is a common allergic disease - about 15 per cent of the population in industrialised countries suffer from this condition.

What are the symptoms of hay fever?

When pollens get into the nose, it will stimulate the body of the affected people to produce antibodies and release histamine. Histamine irritates the upper respiratory passages, making them swell and producing the typical hay fever symptoms such as itchy and watery eyes, frequent sneezing and runny nose, burning sensation in the throat, coughing and difficulty in breathing.

How to prevent hay fever?

In general, those sensitive to tree pollens suffer in the early spring and those sensitive to grass pollens suffer in early summer. Avoidance is the best way of prevention. If your hay fever is caused by various pollens, try to keep doors and windows shut during the pollen season and try to avoid outdoor activities when pollen count is very high. People should use face mask and glasses while outdoor and take a shower and wash their clothing after outdoor activities.

What is the treatment for hay fever?

Even though you take every step to avoid the allergens, it is difficult to avoid all of them. However, there are numerous medicines that can be used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever. The choice will often depend on which symptoms trouble you the most. For example, antihistamines, which work by blocking the release of histamine, are good at relieving sneezing, itching and runny nose and eye symptoms, but are slightly less effective at reducing a blocked nose. In addition, steroid nasal sprays could help to prevent hay fever symptoms and therefore, it is advisable to start using them two weeks before the symptoms normally appear. Finally, various eye drops are also available to treat or prevent eye symptoms.