Suffolk GP’s top 5 tips for dealing with hay fever season
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All you need to know about seasonal allergies in East Anglia this spring, according to an expert
You, or someone you may know, may be afflicted year in year out by the dreaded seasonal allergic rhinitis – more commonly known as hay fever.
According to data from the NHS, around one in four people in the UK suffers from hay fever.
We speak to Dr David Egan, a GP in Debenham and a member of the clinical executive of NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, to find out what causes hay fever, how best to remedy it, and how to lessen any symptoms that you may be suffering from.
What is hay fever?
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“Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollens, with the body producing symptoms,” said Dr Egan. “The most common type of hay fever is a reaction to grass pollen, but other allergens include tree pollen and weed pollen.”
“Symptoms that sufferers will get are typically sneezing, a runny nose, itchy eyes, an itchy blocked nose, sometimes a loss of sense of smell, pain around the sinuses, headaches and earaches,” he added.
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When is hay fever season?
“We tend to say from late April to early May, up until July/August time. Depending on which pollen you are allergic to, that will depend on when it occurs,” said Dr Egan.
“If you’re allergic to tree pollen, that tends to be earlier in the year, and if you’re allergic to weed pollens, that tends to be a little bit later,” he added.
How can I lessen the effects of hay fever?
With current lockdown restrictions in place due to Coronavirus, people may be out and about less, but you’ll more than likely still come into contact with pollen if you’re in your garden, or by simply having the windows open.
“If people are in their gardens doing gardening and cutting then grass, then you can get it just by being at home and in your own garden, just as much as if you were visiting the park,” Dr Egan said.
While there is currently no cure for hay fever, there are a number of ways that sufferers can ensure they lessen the effects of it.
Firstly, be sure to check the pollen count on the weather forecast.
“If you look on the weather programmes, they comment on the pollen count, which is the number of pollen grains per cubic metre of air. Above 50 is high, and that’s when your symptoms are typically at their worst,” said Dr Egan.
On days when the pollen count is at its highest, it’s ideal to stay indoors with the windows closed if you’re able to.
Secondly, try to garden and cut the grass on days when it’s not dry and sunny, as that is prime pollen weather.
Dr Egan added: “If you’re driving in the car, keep the windows closed or use a pollen filter for the vent on car if you can.
“Wearing wraparound sunglasses will also help, and be sure to wash your hair and change your clothes often, as pollen can cling.”
What medications do you recommend?
While a few lifestyle changes can help lessen the effects, medication can also soothe and alleviate any pesky symptoms.
“The most common hay fever medication is antihistamines, which can be used in liquid form in children or tablets for adults. Additionally, there’s steroid nasal sprays, and you can also use antihistamine eye drops.
“All medications can be bought over the counter and don’t need to be prescribed – pharmacists are more than happy to help so people don’t feel like they’re bothering their GP,” said Dr Egan.