The two main types of pollen which affect the majority of people with hay fever are tree pollens and grass pollen.
The types of trees most likely to release pollen that triggers hay fever are alder, birch, hazel and horse chestnut. The first tree pollens of the year typically release and cause hay fever symptoms in February, but sometimes as early as January.
Pollen counts are influenced by several factors including climate and this can mean the start of the pollen season varies from year to year.
Monitoring the pollen count can help with decisions on outside activities, e.g. exercise and when to start taking medication. There are number of ways to get the latest pollen forecast including websites and apps, also television or radio during the spring/summer - (Met Office Pollen Forecast).
If it is not possible to remain indoors during high pollen days, then the following will help to reduce your exposure:
- Avoid outdoor activities that will expose you to pollen, such as cutting the grass.
- Wash your face and blow your nose when you enter the house, especially when the pollen is high
- Take a shower after outdoor activities where exposure to pollen is high
- Keep windows closed at home and in the car
- Wear a hat and wraparound sunglasses to minimise pollen exposure to the eyes
- Apply balm or emollient around eyes and inside of nose
- Dry washing inside or in a tumble dryer as pollen can be brought inside by clothes
To help you identify the right treatment for you during the hay fever season, here are the most common options available:
Antihistamines are the first line of treatment for hay fever, these should be non-sedating and are available in both tablet and liquid form suitable for children or those unable to swallow a tablet. If you need expert advice on the most suitable choice for you or your child’s needs then speak to a pharmacist or your GP.
Tip: Start treatment early (up to two weeks before peak pollen times can help)
Nasal steroid spray
Nasal steroid sprays help to reduce inflammation and swelling, and reduce symptoms like sneezing, itching and a runny nose. It is important that they are used correctly to ensure that the maximum benefit of the medication is gained.
A combined nasal steroid/ antihistamine spray can be more effective than using either alone.
Some people will experience side effects like nosebleeds when using nasal sprays, if this happens your pharmacist or GP may be able to suggest an alternative.
Eye drops can help to control the symptoms of hay fever which cause eyes to itch, be watery and red and irritable. Some steroid nasal sprays also help with eye symptoms.
Saline nasal sprays and irrigation can help soothe inflammation in the nose and clear the nasal passage of any impurities and allergens.
Nasal allergen barrier balm helps catch any pollen and allergens before they get into your nasal passages and trigger allergy symptoms.
What to do if your hay fever treatment isn’t working
If your hay fever medication is not improving your symptoms, consider if you are taking it correctly and regularly (keeping it near to something you use or do in the morning like your toothbrush can help to remember to take it).
If you are still unsure speak to your GP or healthcare professional.