At Holistic Allergy we offer skin prick testing if you think you may have an allergy to different kinds of pollen. Knowing the exact type you are allergic to is important so you can take preventative measures in the future.
In this article, we will talk about hayfever itself, and what the different management options are to improve your quality of life if you do suffer from hay fever.
What is Hayfever?
Hayfever, is also known in the medical world as allergic rhinitis. This occurs when your immune system reacts to pollen in a way that it would react to any other allergen. If the immune system mistakenly identifies pollen as a harmful invader, it will attempt to release chemicals like histamine to help fight against it.
The reaction that ensues is what gives rise to allergy symptoms.
Common symptoms of hayfever include:
- Runny or blocked nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Itchy throat, mouth, nose, and ears
Although allergic rhinitis is the most common symptom, you can also get allergic conjunctivitis, rashes or even more systemic effects.
Allergic conjunctivitis refers to itchy or watery eyes caused by an allergen such as pollen in this case. This is not exclusive though, and other allergens such as cat dander, dust, mould etc. can also cause allergic conjunctivitis.
The severity of the symptoms will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the allergy. Some may only experience a mildly blocked nose, while others may display a full set of symptoms.
Hayfever tablets primarily consist of antihistamines. This active substance helps counteract the effects of the histamine released by the immune system. Commonly prescribed antihistamines in the USA, UK, Australia or elsewhere include:
- Cetirizine (Zyrtek)
- Loratadine (Clarityn)
- Fexofenadine (Allevia/ Allegra/ Telfast)
These tablets can help relieve sneezing, itching, and a runny nose.
Remember that everyone reacts differently to different antihistamines. One of their main side effects it that they can be sedating and may cause drowsiness or in rarer cases dry mouth, nausea, stomach upset or dizziness. Clarityn, Zyrtek and Allevia/ Allegra are all second generation antihistamines so they are less likely to be sedating. Allegra especially is probably the least likely to be sedating and works relatively quickly. Other than that they all work well to treat the allergy symptoms.
These three are now available over-the-counter, but it’s essential to consult with a pharmacist or doctor if it’s your first time taking them and you are unsure of the diagnosis.
How long does it take for hayfever tablets to work?
This depends on the formulation as the rate of absorption will vary.
Tablet antihistamines should start working within 30 minutes to an hour though for the full effect it may take longer.
Hayfever Eye Drops
Hayfever can cause itchy, red, and watery eyes. Eye drops containing antihistamines or mast cell stabilizers can help alleviate these symptoms. Please note that although your eyes can become itchy or red, allergic conjunctivitis should not be causing any problems with your vision. If you are unsure of your diagnosis or have other symptoms that itchy and watery eyes, you should get in touch with your GP or a pharmacist.
The most common hayfever eye drops in the UK are Optrex Allergy eye drops. These contain Sodium Cromoglicate as the active ingredient and can be bought over the counter.
Other options for hayfever eye drops include eye drops with azelastine, ketotifen or olopatadine but these are usually prescription only, so you will need to see your GP or an allergist first.
Hayfever Nasal Spray
Nasal sprays can be effective in treating the symptoms of hayfever by acting locally on the inflamed nasal mucosa. There are three main types of nasal spray that you can use. Some can be bought over the counter, others are prescription only.
- Steroid Nasal Sprays: These include beconase, fluticasone or mometasone. The steroid acts to reduce the inflammation, thus over time decreasing the blockage and secretions.
- Antihistamine Nasal Sprays: Azelastine is a common active ingredient and this counteracts the effect of histamine. It works in a similar way to azelastine in the hayfever eye drops. You can also get a combination of steroid + antihistamine called Dymista but this is currently prescription only. It can be issued by your GP or an allergist.
- Decongestant Nasal Sprays: Such as oxymetazoline, provide temporary relief from nasal congestion. They should not be used for more than a few days at a time or they could end up making your symptoms worse.
Another milder option is a saline spray such as the Sudafed, which is also suitable for all ages:
In addition, using a saline nasal rinse such as NeilMed can also be a good symptomatic relief option. This can wash out pollen or other allergens from inside the nasal airways.
Hayfever wipes are specifically designed to help remove and trap airborne allergens, like pollen, dust, and pet dander, from the skin and around the eyes. They can also be used to remove allergens from surfaces.
The hayfever wipes are usually moistened with a gentle, hypoallergenic solution that aids in the removal of these particles.
A popular brand is Kleenex and this can work well for some people to decrease the pollen count in their nearby environment. You may find that they are most effective in the summer or spring periods when the trees are in bloom.
There are two main types of hayfever injections: Hayfever immunotherapy or Kenalog steroid injections. The latter is no longer recommended for use in the UK due to safety concerns.
Hayfever immunotherapy, however, can be a viable treatment option to desensitize your body from reacting to different types of pollen. The injections are usually performed at an allergy clinic and are done subcutaneously.
Other types of desensitization therapies such as sublingual immunotherapy also exist, but these tend to be given in more specialized allergy centres only. More on this in a future article!
We offer pollen testing for a wide variety of different pollens such as:
- Birch pollen
- Ragweed pollen
- Willow pollen
- Mugwort pollen
- Grass pollen and many more
To find out more about the different types of hayfever testing we have available near you, get in touch with us today.
Dr Elena Salagean is a consultant allergist who offers allergy testing, management and treatment options in the UK. She has been quoted by numerous journalists in the UK and USA and is also a researcher and published author on Pubmed.