Hayfever- Part 1
Hay fever is a type of allergic rhinitis caused by pollen or spores. Hay fever affects the nose, sinuses, throat, and eyes. From May to July grass and flowers are in pollen, so is the most common time for hay fever. Mould and fungi also release tiny reproductive particles, called spores which also cause allergies. Grass is the most common cause of hayfever.
Hay fever is a common condition that affects around 20% of the population. Hay fever is more likely if there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema. Hay fever usually begins in the early teens and peaks when a person is in their twenties.
Symptoms of hayfever include sneezing, running nose, watery eyes, nasal congestion, itching in the throat, eyes and ears and swelling around the eyes.
The symptoms of hay fever occur when the immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance, in this case pollen. When the body contacts pollen, cells in the lining of the nose, mouth and eyes release a chemical called histamine. This triggers the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Will I grow out of it?
Hay fever cannot be cured completely. Children sometimes improve with age, although many have persistent and worsening symptoms. In adults, the condition is usually persistent with some improvement in older age.
The pollen count is often given with TV, radio, internet, or newspaper weather forecasts. If it is humid or windy, the pollen count is likely to be higher. The pollen count is highest in the early evening, so try to avoid going outside around this time. Keep windows and doors shut in the house, try drawing the curtains to keep out the sun and keep the temperature down. Avoid cutting grass, playing, walking or camping in grassy areas. Change your clothes and take a shower after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body. Wear wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you are outdoors. Keep car windows closed and consider buying a pollen filter for the air vents in your car. Keep fresh flowers out of the house, and vacuum and damp dust regularly. Keep pets out of the house during the hay fever season if your pet normally comes indoors; wash pets regularly to remove any pollen.
The doctor will ask questions to determine cause and type of allergy. The doctor will examine the inside of the nose with an instrument called a speculum. The eyes, ears, and chest may be examined.
Skin tests may be performed. Patients are usually tested for a panel of common allergens. Skin tests are rarely needed to diagnose mild seasonal allergic rhinitis, since the cause is usually obvious. Patients should not take antihistamines for 12 to 72 hours prior to the skin test otherwise the allergy will not show up. Tiny amounts of suspected allergens are applied to the skin with a needle prick or scratch. Skin allergy tests are not 100% accurate. The doctor may take a nasal smear. The nasal secretion is examined microscopically for factors that might indicate a cause, such as increased numbers of white blood cells, indicating infection, or high eosinophil count indicating an allergic condition. Blood tests for IgE immunoglobulin production may also be performed.
Whelehans now provide Cetrine Allergy® (a non-drowsy antihistamine) in a cost-effective pack of 30 for €4.
To be continued… next week I discuss treatment