Last Updated on Monday, 19 October 2009 10:36
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Hayfever is the common name for an allergic reaction of the nose, throat and eyes. It is caused by an allergy to things such as pollen from plants. These allergy causing substances are known as allergens.
For most people Hayfever usually occurs about the same time each year, e.g. in spring or summer. This is when a lot of pollen is in the air because many grasses, weeds and trees are flowering. Hayfever at this time is referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis.
However some people get Hayfever all year round. This is called perennial allergic rhinitis. This is usually caused by an allergy to animal hair, house dust mites and mould. Hayfever can be made worse by things that irritate the already sensitive nose Ã¢â‚¬â€œ things such as smoke, chemical fumes or sudden changes in temperature.
What is Hayfever? Also referred to as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever is one of the commonest allergic conditions in the UK, affecting about 15 to 20% of the population in the UK and a quarter of the people in the age group of 11 to 21 years.
Causes of Hayfever
Hayfever results from an allergic response to pollen from various trees, grass, plants and weeds. Hay fever sets in when the pollen season begins, beginning early in spring, March to May, when pollen from trees, especially birch and oak, is known to cause the condition. Grass and flowers are widely responsible from May to July. Allergies in autumn are generally caused by weeds, late flowering plants and mould spores.
Symptoms of Hayfever
Symptoms occur at variable times during the year, depending on the type of pollen you are sensitive to. Patients often complain of a general feeling of being unwell, with a runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes and frequent sneezing attacks. Hayfever causes a range of flu-like symptoms including headache, a runny, itchy throat and nose with sneezing spells, itchy, watery eyes, poor sleep and listlessness.
The severity of these symptoms may be variable, depending on the amount of pollen in the air. Similar symptoms are observed in allergies to mould, animal dander and dust. Persistent symptoms may cause discomfort and result in poor individual performance and reduced work output. The quality of life is likely to suffer in the long term.
Diagnosis of Hayfever
Your GP may conduct a skin prick test or a blood test to determine if you suffer from hay fever.
Treatment of Hayfever
Drug treatment is usually required and is available either over the counter or on prescription. Medical treatment includes the use of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs, most of which are available over the counter. Steroid nasal sprays may be required. Desensitisation may be offered in severe cases.
Prevention of Hayfever
Although it is not easy to completely ward off pollen, symptoms may be minimized by taking a few simple precautions. Remain indoors as much as possible when the pollen count is high, keeping doors and windows closed. Roll up your car windows while driving and protect your eyes with sunglasses. Stay away from open areas such as parks and fields during the pollen season.