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Get prepared for hay fever season with these top tips!

Hay fever season is fast approaching - and with over 20 million people in the UK suffering from seasonal allergies, Professor Adam Fox is joining us with his top tips on preventing and managing your symptoms.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is one of the most common allergies in the UK, affecting around 20 million people in the UK. It is an allergic reaction to pollen, a fine powder which comes from plants. Symptoms include coughing and sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, an itchy throat, nose, mouth or ears, headaches and tiredness.

When is hay fever at its worst?

The season of runny noses and watery eyes is now upon us - with hay fever usually at its worst between late March and September. The pollen count is always at its highest when it's particularly warm, humid or windy.

Does the weather affect pollen levels?

Rain usually helps reduce hay fever symptoms, as the rain traps pollen and brings it to the ground, so it's not flying around as much. However, sunny weather followed by a period of rain is the perfect condition for grass to flourish - and causes high levels of pollen.

Can high levels trigger people who don't usually suffer?

Even if you don't usually suffer from hay fever, high levels of pollen can sometimes trigger a reaction. Hay fever usually starts during childhood, but people can start to show symptoms later on in life, and there are increasing numbers of middle-aged and elderly people being affected by hay fever - it can come on during high levels of pollen too. Everyone has got their own threshold. If the pollen count is particularly high one day, people who don't usually suffer may start to notice symptoms.

Is it hay fever, or could it be a cold or covid?

With symptoms very similar between the common cold and hay fever - how can you tell the difference? The first thing to check is your temperature. You may get a high temperature with a cold, infection or covid - but you definitely won't get one from hay fever. Despite it being called a fever, it will never affect your temperature. Secondly, if your eyes are itchy, this is most likely going to be hay fever. Lastly, check your response to medicine - if antihistamine is helping your symptoms then it won't be a cold.

Is there any way you can prepare in advance?

As we're at the very beginning of hay fever season, Professor Adam Fox recommends trying a nasal spray ahead of summer.

What are the best treatments to use?

1. Antihistamine tablets: "I would recommend trying over the counter antihistamine tablets first - but make sure you buy the right sort and get long acting, non-sleepy tablets instead of short action, drowsy ones. For a non-medical treatment you could try a salt water medical spray.' 2. Nasal sprays: "nasal sprays will help your eyes as well as airwaves." + steroid nasal sprays, also called corticosteroid nasal sprays, are anti-inflammatories - some of these are only available on prescription. 3. Eye drops: "Drops can also contain antihistamines, but are mainly used to reduce inflammation if you suffer from puffiness around the eyes. Most eye symptoms aren't from pollen getting in the eyes, it's a reflex from the nose - so think about using nasal spray first.'

Simple preventatives to do at home:

  • Don't hang your washing outside.

  • Wear glasses instead of contact lenses to avoid eye irritation.

  • Shower in the evening and change your clothes after being outside.

  • Put vaseline around your nostrils when going outside as a barrier.

  • Keep windows in your house & in the car shut - you can also get a pollen filter for your car.

  • If you have asthma, take your preventer inhaler daily, even if you don't have any symptoms.

  • Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth.

What if hay fever affects your sleep?

Allergy UK found that 87 percent of people in the UK claim their sleep is badly affected by hay fever. This is because pollen rises during the day, and falls to the ground again as temperatures drop.

  • Try covering up your bedding and pillows during the day to stop pollen from settling on it.

  • Shower before bed to wash pollen off your body and hair.

  • Olbas oil on your pillow may help decongestion. "These options can help reduce pollen count however if you are experiencing chronic symptoms which persist throughout the night - you should treat hay fever properly with medication."

When to seek help from your GP: "If you're taking antihistamine tablets, using a nasal spray and hay fever is still interfering with your quality of life at work, school or when you sleep, you should have a chat with your gp about other medications or potentially bigger doses. There are other treatments available for people with severe cases who are desensitised to treatments. You can't be cured of hay fever but symptoms should go down as you get older."

Use our helplines to find more information and advice about hay fever.

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