What is Hay-fever?
Hay-fever, medically known as Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis or Pollinosis, is when your immune system reacts to the allergens that are in the air.Hay-fever is one of the most common allergic conditions, affecting for than 10 million people in the UK alone. Rhinitis literally means inflammation of the inside of your nose.
The main triggers of Allergic Rhinitis are environmental allergens such as pollen, pet hair, dust or mold. The environment around you, your upbringing and even your genes are all contributing factors of your risk of allergies such as hay-fever, as well as the severity of symptoms. It is thought that if you grow up in a high pollen environment, such as a farm, around a lot of animals or simply have several siblings this can decrease your chances of suffering from allergies.
When you have an allergy, your body perceives the thing you are allergic to as a threat. When you have hay-fever, this is triggered by Pollen. Your body will treat any allergies as though it is being attacked by a virus. The chemicals your body releases in order to protect itself is what creates the Hay-fever symptoms.
Pollen is very fine particles that plants naturally release as part of their reproductive cycle. These tiny proteins will cause eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen and irritated. There are different types of Pollen which could be causing your allergies. Tree pollen, released during spring, grass pollen, released during the end of spring and beginning of summer, or weed pollen which is released during Autumn. Many people can be allergic to more than one type. Research has also suggested that pollution, such as cigarette smoke or car exhaust fumes, can make allergies worse.
- itchy, watery eyes
- runny nose
- nasal congestion
- eyelid swelling,
- lower eyelid venous stasis (rings under the eyes known as "allergic shiners")
As well as these general symptoms, sufferers can struggle with sleep and find that their ability to work and concentrate effectively is hindered.
Being a Seasonal occurrence is what makes this condition more commonly known as 'Hay-fever' as it affects mostly during 'Haying' season. However, you can be affected throughout the year. Symptoms very depending on where you are and affects each person differently.
Do I have Hay-fever?
You can get hay-fever at any age, although it tends to appear in young children or teenagers. Those with a family history of allergies, asthma or excema tend to be at a higher risk than those who do not. However, many find symptoms improve as they get older. Around half of people report some improvement in symptoms after several years. Symptoms disappear completely in around 10-20% of people.
You may be suffering from Hay-fever and you don’t even realise. This condition is on the rise with increasing numbers of adults in their 30s, 40s even up to in their 50s developing allergy symptoms. Often this is overlooked and dismissed as a cold or sinus problems. This can lead to using the wrong treatments to help your symptoms.
The other problem with Hay-fever is that it is often misdiagnosed. You may experience symptoms very similar to those cause by hay-fever when exposed to allergy-triggering substances, such as dust mites and animal fur. This could be the case if you do find that your symptoms prevail throughout the year. If you are sneezing and have itchy eyes before the grass pollen season starts in June, you may have an allergy to birch pollen, which is increasingly common. Other trees and plants that spark allergies at different times of year include plane, oilseed rape, oak and nettle. Some people can also develop a hay fever-like allergy to fungi/mold. Fungi can release tiny particles called spores, which can be inhaled in the same way as pollen. These spores are most prominent during wet or damp weather. Fungi can also grow indoors in humid or damp areas.
If in doubt you should aim to be referred to an allergy clinic where specialists can aim to properly diagnose your problem.
If you do find that you suffer from hay-fever, paying attention to your local pollen count will allow you to try and stay on top of the severity of your symptoms. A pollen count is a measurement of how much pollen is in the air. The pollen levels affect how severe your symptoms of hay-fever can be. If you want to stay on top of this, the Met office provides a regular pollen forecast.
Many different factors alter how much pollen is in the air. The amount of sunshine, rain or wind affects how much pollen plants release and how much it's spread around. Humidity and wind can spread the pollen. Whereas rain can help significantly clear the pollen levels in the air. During their pollen season, plants release pollen early in the morning. As the day gets warmer and more flowers open, pollen levels rise. On sunny days, the pollen count is highest in the early evening.
If you do have hay-fever or any other allergies the best thing you can do initially is to be properly diagnosed. This way you can research the best preventative methods to help you and receive the correct medication. With the spring months just around the corner, it is the best time to make moves for your own health and wellbeing.