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According to Glenys Scudding, Consultant Allergist at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, hay fever is on the rise and now affects about one in four people. Citing official advice from NHS England, Scudding says over-the-counter antihistamines are good for people with mild symptoms, but she cautions against using sedating antihistamines, which can impair cognition. Scudding says steroid nasal sprays are usually a good treatment for hay fever, but she recommends seeing a doctor if symptoms are unclear or complicated in any way.
Take preventive measures
According to Holly Shaw, Consultant Nurse at Allergy UK, taking hay fever medication early is key to achieving maximum protection against high pollen levels. People suffering from hay fever are advised to start using nasal sprays two weeks before the expected onset of symptoms. If you need advice on medications, Shaw recommends that you don’t hesitate to ask the pharmacists. She also highlights the effects of pollen on asthmatics, 80% of whom also have hay fever. “Pollen can cause allergies in asthma sufferers. Managing hay fever symptoms is an important part of asthma control.”
Check pollen levels
Try to regularly check your pollen levels online or on apps. It is useful to know that in the northern hemisphere the pollen season is divided into three main parts: tree pollen from late March to mid-May, meadow grass pollen from mid-May to July, and weed pollen from late June to September. The NHS recommends wearing oversized sunglasses when you go out and applying Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen.
Avoid getting pollen into your home
Pollen can enter the home unnoticed on clothing or pet hair. It is advisable to change clothes upon arrival home and even take a shower. Allergy UK recommends not drying clothes outside and keeping windows closed – especially in the early morning and evening when pollen levels are at their highest. Allergy UK also recommends not cutting or walking on cut grass, and avoiding keeping fresh flowers in the home.
Try to reduce your stress levels
Studies have shown that stress can exacerbate allergies. Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Massachusetts Ophthalmology Hospital, explains the possible mind-body connection in inflammatory conditions. “Stress can worsen an allergic reaction. We don’t know exactly why, but we think that stress hormones may speed up an already overreacting immune system to allergens.” Meditation, exercise, and a healthy diet are all recognized ways to reduce stress levels.