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The hayfever clinic

Our experts help readers put a stop to their sneezing and wheezing this summer

H

eard the one about the condition horses fear most? Hayfever (boom boom!). But, bad jokes aside, hayfever isn’t funny – it’s estimated that nearly 21 million of us suffer from the allergy, and the number of people who have it has doubled in the past 30 years. Here, our team of experts advises three different sufferers…

The asthmatic

Pam-headshot

‘I’ve had asthma since I was 18, but when the pollen season starts it gets much worse. Even a walk in the countryside can bring on an asthma attack. I also get itchy eyes, a blocked nose and a raspy throat.’ Pam Wills, 56

 

Case notes It’s estimated that up to 40% of hayfever sufferers have, or will develop, asthma. ‘Pollen contains proteins that are harmless to most people, but for hayfever sufferers it makes their immune systems overreact and release a chemical called histamine,’ explains Sonia Munde of Asthma UK. ‘Histamines cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen and irritated. And for people with asthma (80% of whom are allergic to pollen), histamines make their asthma symptoms even worse.’

 

Pam should prepare for hayfever season by seeing her GP and asthma nurse for a medication check-up. ‘As with most hayfever sufferers, a daily, non-drowsy antihistamine will help tackle symptoms,’ says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers.

 

‘Sucking a sugar-free mint or chewing gum can help to disperse histamine in the mouth and stop the raspiness that Pam suffers from. And she could think about using a humidifier in the bedroom – it will help keep the air moist, and reduce airborne dust and pollen by causing particles to drop to the floor when they become heavy with moisture.’

The first-timer

Nikki-headshot

‘Last year, I sneezed constantly and my eyes were so watery I couldn’t wear my contact lenses. My doctor diagnosed hayfever, but why am I getting it now?’ Nikki Hyames, 36

 

Case notes ‘Getting hayfever as an adult does happen,’ says Amena Warner of charity Allergy UK. ‘Daily stresses can cause the immune system to flare up, and pollution and environmental factors also make us susceptible. A recent increase in rapeseed planting could be a factor – the pollen spreads widely.

 

‘Try using a nasal allergy barrier balm. Wipe it around the nostrils (not inside) to catch pollen before it enters. Once breathed in, pollen lands on the plates of the nose and is irritating, so your body will try to expel it – hence the sneezing and runny nose.’

 

Angela also suggests a non-drowsy antihistamine tablet. ‘Take one every day,’ she says. ‘Wraparound sunglasses may also help avoid itchy eyes.

 

‘If antihistamines don’t control your symptoms adequately, you may want to consider a steroid nasal spray,’ she adds. You could also speak to your pharmacist about nasal douching. ‘Ask for an isotonic mixture of saline, which you squeeze into your nostrils to rinse them out and help keep them clear,’ says Amena.

Hayfever-inset
Daily stresses, pollution and environmental factors can all contribute to making us suddenly susceptible to hayfever

The child who suffers badly

Carla-headshot

‘My son Blake, five, was diagnosed with hayfever when he was two. He gets a runny nose and streaming, sore eyes. He loves to play outside with his two brothers, but this makes him worse. What can I do?’ Carla Spencer, 28, with Blake

 

Case notes ‘Keep an eye on the calendar and start giving Blake age-appropriate treatment as soon as his symptoms begin to appear,’ says Angela. ‘But speak to a pharmacist beforehand to make sure you have the right medication, and for advice on how to give it to him.’

 

Amena underlines the need to find the right medication for your child. ‘Studies have shown that 31% of children struggle to concentrate because of their hayfever, so it’s important to choose the right, non-drowsy remedy,’ she says. Preventing pollen from getting inside the house can be useful, too: ‘Ask Blake to take off his clothes as soon as he’s indoors, and put them in the wash to stop the pollen spreading. And make sure all three boys have a bath or shower after they’ve been outside all day – this will wash off any pollen clinging to their hair,’ adds Angela.

Words Natalie Blenford Photography Getty Images, Pixeleyes

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