Top tips for managing hay fever symptoms

Mr Badrul Hussain, consultant eye surgeon at Moorfields, shares his top tips for beating hay fever this spring. 

Causes

Hay fever is a common allergic condition that affects one in five people at some point in their life. Symptoms of hay fever can include itchy, red or watery eyes, a runny nose and sneezing. 

Affected people may experience hay fever symptoms if they have an allergic reaction to pollen. Pollen is fine powder released by plants and when these tiny particles come into contact with your eyes, nose, mouth and throat, they can trigger an immune response causing the body to react with swelling, irritation and inflammation

Some people’s eyes can be particularly sensitive to pollen. Our body’s natural response is to wash the pollen out, which is why some people end up with watery eyes. They can also become red, itchy, and sticky as the immune system reacts. 

Treatment

There is no cure for hay fever, but many people find their symptoms improve as they get older. Symptom relief treatment is available to use during the pollen season. 

You can treat your hay fever symptoms with over-the-counter medications from your local pharmacist. Anti-histamine nasal sprays and/or tablets are one of the best ways to relieve symptoms and should be taken before the hay fever seasons starts for the best results.

Eye drops containing antihistamine are also available from your pharmacy. These should reduce the inflammation in your eyes and relieve the itching. Watch our video on how to use your eye drops correctly.

When to seek medical advice

If your symptoms don’t improve after using over-the-counter anti-histamines, make an appointment to see your GP. They may be able to recommend other treatments, such as anti-histamine drops that are only available on prescription.

On occasions, marked allergic reactions may need review by an eye specialist and treatment with medication that dampens down the immune reaction such as steroids.

Top tips for reducing symptoms

  • Wearing wraparound sunglasses can help reduce pollen contact with the eyes.
  • Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after spending time outdoors to remove any pollen from your skin and hair.
  • Dry washed clothes indoors during the peak pollen season.
  • Stay indoors when the pollen count is high – different types of pollen can affect different people, although there can be a crossover. A pollen forecast can be viewed at the Met Office.
  • Alcohol may increase allergy symptoms and should be avoided when your hay fever is at its worst.

More information on hay fever is available from NHS Choices.

Mr Badrul Hussain is a consultant eye surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He specialises in emergency and general ophthalmology, as well as cataract surgery.

 

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