While everyone is in lockdown at the moment, hay fever is still very much present as sufferers have been experiencing only too well. It is believed many members of the royal family are prone to hay fever allergies, including the Duchess of Cambridge, and The Queen's former doctor, Anna Hemming, has shared a list of some of the best ways you can treat your hay fever symptoms, which will help to make your daily walks a little more pleasant. Dr Anna – who worked as a GP at Buckingham Palace for six years – explained: "Hay fever is caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens, such as pollen and dust. It is very common, affecting two in ten people in the UK."
Hay fever symptoms include a runny nose, thin watery discharge, itchy eyes, and sneezing, which occur after exposure to the allergen. Unfortunately, unlike a common cold, which typically lasts for up to seven days, hay ever continues for as long as you are exposed to the allergen.
Hay fever affects two in ten people in the UK
Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen levels are high
This is something that is far easier to do during the lockdown than it would be normally. Dr Anna advises: "It is impossible to avoid air borne pollen completely, however you can keep a check on the pollen count using sites such as Net Weather and plan your activities accordingly. When the pollen levels are high, stay indoors as much as possible, keep windows and doors shut and avoid cutting grass or going to areas where there are grassy fields. Other things you can do include wearing wrap around sunglasses when you are out, shower and wash your hair after visiting outdoor places, especially in the countryside, and keep car windows closed."
"It is possible to buy antihistamine tablets and nasal sprays at your local pharmacy, and some supermarkets stock them too," says Dr Anna. "Antihistamine sprays can ease itching, sneezing and runny noses fairly rapidly (in about 15 minutes). They work by blocking the inflammation caused by your body's histamine release in the presence of the allergen. Nasal antihistamine sprays can be used as and when needed or on a regular basis to keep symptoms away."
You can also take antihistamine tablets. "These are an excellent alternative if you have other symptoms as well as nasal ones. They normally take a little longer to work (within an hour) and can help treat your eyes, mouth, and nose," Dr Anna explained. "They can be taken when required if your symptoms are mild and come and go, or regularly if you have symptoms every day. There are several types of antihistamines, with Loratadine, Cetirizine and Acrivastine all good choices, as they help cause less drowsiness."
What's more, children from over the age of two can take antihistamine medication, although Dr Anna advises those who are pregnant or breast feeding to seek medical advice before starting any treatment.
Children over the age of two can take antihistamine medication
Steroid nasal sprays
"Some people need to use steroid nasal sprays or drops to ease their symptoms, especially if your symptoms are more severe," Dr Anna said. "They work by reducing the inflammation caused by the chemicals released by the allergy response. It takes several days for these sprays to start working to their full effect, sometimes up to three weeks. Steroid nasal sprays can be used in combination with antihistamine tablets in adults." These are available through your pharmacy or on prescription, and common sprays include Budesonide, Triamcinolone and Mometasone.
For those with itchy eyes, eye drops can help. Dr Anna explains: "You may find regularly using of eye drops help. There are several types, including mast cell stabilising drops like sodium cromoglicate and antihistamine eye drops which work a little bit quicker and are best for flare-ups. Occasionally, anti-inflammatory eye drops like diclofenac are used for hay fever."
Eye drops can help relieve hay fever symptoms
Medical drugs to block hay fever
For those also suffering from asthma, leukotriene receptor antagonists – which block the effect of chemicals causing hay fever – can really help. "They work well if you have asthma and can be taken in combination with antihistamine tablets," Dr Anna said. "These are normally prescribed by specialists."
If your hay fever symptoms become too unbearable even after at-home treatment, or if your allergy treatment is causing side effects, or if you have other conditions that are becoming worse as a result, such as asthma, then Dr Anna advises that you should go and see a doctor.
Dr Anna Hemming is the medical director of Thames Skin Clinic in Twickenham, which is still offering remote consultations and tailored skincare programmes during the coronavirus lockdown. For more information, please visit www.thamesskin.co.uk
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