Life

Hay fever ‘misery’ for millions this pollen season – expert advice for prevention and treatment

Warmer temperatures occurring earlier in the year are expected to worsen the common condition.

Spring and early summer is the worst time for hay fever sufferers
Young woman suffering from allergy, hay fever and pollen Spring and early summer is the worst time for hay fever sufferers (Alamy Stock Photo)

This spring and summer, an estimated 10 million Britons will experience “absolute misery” as the effects of hay fever set in.

George Sandhu, deputy superintendent pharmacist at Well Pharmacy, says hay fever symptoms, including blocked noses, watery eyes and itchy throats, are triggered by three types of pollen, which affects people at various times throughout the year.

Some people are allergic to a single type of pollen, while others are “unfortunate enough” to suffer from symptoms caused by all three: tree, grass and weed.

In 2023, hay fever symptoms prompted over 122,000 clinical visits to general practitioners
Summer weather June 13th 2023 In 2023, hay fever symptoms prompted over 122,000 clinical visits to general practitioners (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Warmer temperatures occurring earlier in the year are expected to worsen the common condition, leading to an earlier release of pollen and other allergens into the air. Pollen is usually at it’s highest from March to September.

According to the NHS, in 2023, hay fever symptoms prompted over 122,000 clinical visits to general practitioners.

What are the best treatments to alleviate hay fever symptoms?

Hay fever can be treated with tablets, nasal sprays or eye drops. For complete relief, experts say to use eye and nasal sprays alongside tablets.

Sandhu says: “Hay fever symptoms cause absolute misery for millions of people, but the good news is that there are plenty of things that you can do to reduce their impact on your life.”

Anti-allergy medicine, known as antihistamines, is often seen by experts as the most popular form of treatment for hay fever.

D9Y854 Hay fever sufferer using eye drops
Hay fever sufferer using eye drops D9Y854 Hay fever sufferer using eye drops (Alamy Stock Photo)

Carolina Goncalves, superintendent pharmacist at Pharmica, says: “Fexofenadine can help treat a runny nose, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, or an itchy nose or throat. It is a non-drowsy antihistamine that works by blocking histamine (a substance in the body that causes allergic symptoms).

“Other antihistamines worth considering that have a similar effect include Cetirizine and Loratadine.”

Sandhu adds: “Since last year, allergy products containing fexofenadine hydrochloride, such as Histallay, are available without a prescription.

“Previously these medications were only available with a prescription from your doctor. The benefits can be felt within one hour and last for 24 hours without any drowsiness.”

Nasal sprays are another form of treatment that will help alleviate runny noses and sneezing.

“Corticosteroid nasal sprays can help reduce nasal inflammation and clear up the nasal passages, preventing sneezing and a runny nose,” Goncalves says.

(Alamy Stock Photo)

“Individuals looking for a non-corticosteroid option to treat blocked noses may also wish to consider saline nasal sprays to help increase the moisture content within the nasal cavity, thinning out the mucus and making it easier to expel.”

Goncalves recommends considering eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate as an effective treatment. This ingredient is known to prevent mast cells in the eyes from releasing histamine and other substances that trigger allergies.

Immunotherapy is considered to be another effective treatment for hay fever. It involves identifying the specific tree, grass or weed pollen that triggers the allergic reaction, and gradually introducing increasing doses of the allergen into the body over a prolonged period.

This process helps the body to develop immunity to the allergen, thus reducing or even eliminating the symptoms of hay fever.

Max Weisberg, an airborne allergens expert, says: “For NHS treatment, referral by a GP is necessary, which is usually only if all other hay fever treatments have been tried first and the reaction remains extreme.”

How can you best prevent hay fever?

HEPA filters are capable of trapping microscopic particles including pollen grains
Hay fever study HEPA filters are capable of trapping microscopic particles including pollen grains (Peter Jordan/PA)

Experts recommend HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters, which can greatly reduce the presence of pollen and other allergens in indoor air.

Goncalves says: “These filters are capable of trapping microscopic particles, including pollen grains, and preventing them from circulating and settling within the home environment.

“According to numerous studies, HEPA filters can remove 99.9% of aerosolised respiratory particles that are between 300 nanometres and 100 micrometres in size. This includes pollen, which can be up to 200 micrometres in size.

“Integrating HEPA filters into air purification systems and vacuum cleaners can effectively remove these allergens from the indoor air, providing relief for individuals prone to hay fever symptoms.”

It is recommended to keep windows and doors closed during pollen season to prevent pollen from entering your home, which reduces exposure and symptoms.

Routine showers and changing into fresh clothes are advised by experts, as during high pollen seasons, pollen grains can stick to clothing, hair and even skin when spending time outdoors.

This measure helps to remove any pollen particles that may have accumulated, ensuring that they are not transferred to indoor spaces where they could contribute to increased allergen exposure.

Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly, like Vaseline, around the nostrils can serve as a barrier to trap pollen before it enters the nasal passages.

This method can decrease pollen exposure and subsequent allergic reactions.