Danielle's Story

I’m Danielle from Reading in Berkshire, I’m 34 years old now and have just one allergy, hay fever.

I first suffered my first season of hay fever when I was 21 years old and pregnant with my first child. Previously I had never had so much as a sneeze during hay fever season and to be quite honest I always believed it was nothing more than a sniffle. How wrong I was!

I straight away went from nothing to severe hay fever. At the time I remember thinking something was seriously wrong with me, I couldn’t stop scratching my eyes and I could hardly breathe. I was shocked when the doctor said it was hay fever. Ever since then I have suffered every year from around the end of February to July.

I used to love the summer now I fear it as I never know how bad my allergies will get each year.

My symptoms are itchy eyes, inner ears and skin, a constant streaming nose that burns and tickles at the same time, known as allergic rhinitis, sneezing continuously, coughing, itchy throat, and extreme fatigue. My symptoms then increase to swelling of the nasal passages, throat and asthma. I then need steroid immune suppressants just to be able to breathe again however these come with heavy risks especially during the current COVID pandemic as it weakens your immune system to stop it fighting the pollen, but also allows you to catch other illnesses should you come into contact with them.

Hay fever season is my worse time of year, I used to love the summer now I fear it as I never know how bad my allergies will get each year. I have three children and for four months of the year I’m in extreme discomfort. When they want to go to the park after school with their friends, or anywhere outside it involves me suffering or we don’t go. Sometimes I’ll be fine at the time but I will get a delayed reaction and suffer later that evening, which means people don’t always see you at your worst.

I worry about anyone opening the doors and windows in my home because if the pollen gets inside the house it can be really difficult to get rid of it and then I never get a break from having reactions from it. It’s so hard to concentrate with your nose running constantly at work and you have to keep stopping every few seconds to blow your nose. My eyes itch so badly at times I’ve scratched them in the night to the point they swell and I can hardly see the next day. It also is very depressing, feeling unwell for so long at a time everyone is enjoying days out and good weather while you’re doing everything you can to stay indoors, it can be really lonely and your loved ones have to put up with you being very irritable because you’re so uncomfortable. People often don’t understand if they haven’t had it, or had it as bad, they may think you’re moaning over nothing or just being dramatic. It’s rare for people to see me at my absolute worse with my symptoms because at those points I’m too sick to leave the house. I think because it’s such a common allergy very often it is trivialised by society.

Some people can follow all the guidelines for hay fever symptoms and it helps but for some nothing makes it better. I’m on steroid nasal spray, prescription antihistamines, eye drops, nasal balm to trap pollen, saline nasal drops for dryness, creams for my skin to stop itching, and two different inhalers that I only take due to hay fever, they still though provide very little relief.

At home I can’t dry my clothes/bedding outside, open the windows even on a heat wave. I have to wash my hair every night and as quickly as I can once I come in from outside.

My advice to anyone suffering would be if you can, download a pollen app, this will help forecast the pollen, some show you the different types and you can log your symptoms each day to help you identify which pollen your allergic to and when your less likely to get as many symptoms. This will help you plan days you can do more outdoor activities. Also don’t be afraid to contact your GP if you are feeling depressed with it, it’s very important to get support and there may be more treatments that work for you.