What is it?

Hay fever is common. It’s caused by an allergic response to outdoor or indoor allergens such as pollen, dust mites, fungal spores, animal fur or occupational sources. Allergens are most commonly proteins or enzymes that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.

What are the symptoms?

Hay fever symptoms vary in severity and may be worse some years, depending on the weather conditions and pollen count. The time of year your symptoms start will depend on the types of pollen you’re allergic to. The symptoms of hay fever include:

  • Frequent sneezing.
  • Runny or blocked nose.
  • Itchy, red or watery eyes (allergic conjunctivitis).
  • An itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears.
  • Cough, caused by postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat from the back of the nose).

Less commonly, you may also experience:

  • The loss of your sense of smell (anosmia).
  • Facial pain (caused by blocked sinuses).
  • Headaches.
  • Earache.
  • Tiredness and fatigue.

Even though your hay fever symptoms may be mild, they can interfere with your sleep and your daily activities at school or work.

Hay fever and asthma

If you have asthma, your asthma symptoms may get worse when you have hay fever. Sometimes, the symptoms of asthma only occur when you have hay fever. These symptoms include:

  • Tight chest.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing.
  • Wheezing.

Pollen count

Hay fever symptoms are likely to be worse if the pollen count is high. The pollen count is the number of grains of pollen in one cubic metre of air. Air samples are collected in traps set on buildings 2 or 3 storeys high. Taking samples from this height gives a better indication of the pollen in the air. Traps on the ground would only collect pollen from nearby trees and plants. The air is sucked into the trap and the grains of pollen are collected on either sticky tape or microscope slides (glass plates). The pollen is then counted. Samples are normally taken every 2 hours, and usually the results are averaged over a 24-hour period.

The pollen forecast is usually given as:

  • Low – less than 30 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.
  • Moderate – 30 to 49 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.
  • High – 50 to 149 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.
  • Very high – 150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.

Hay fever symptoms often begin when the pollen count is over 50. The pollen count is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months.

What to expect?

You can try the following things at home to reduce your hay fever symptoms:

  • Keep your windows closed on sunny and windy days.
  • Wear sunglasses when going outside.
  • Do not mow your lawn yourself.

Think you might have Seasonal allergies (hay fever)?

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Think you might have Seasonal allergies (hay fever)?