Hay fever – or allergic rhinitis, as it is also known – is characterised by inflammation of the nasal airways, which occurs when an allergen – something to which the sufferer’s immune system is especially sensitised – is inhaled and causes a type of allergic reaction.

The immune system in sufferers, mistakes a harmless substance as something dangerous, prompting the body to create antibodies against it. These antibodies cause the release of inflammatory mediators, chemicals like histamine, which cause the reaction and associated symptoms.

Common hay fever causes or triggers include:

Tree pollen

Grass pollen

Weed pollen

Dust mites

Fungus and mould spores

Animal dander

What are its symptoms?

Hay fever symptoms include: Sneezing Itchy, watery eyes Nasal congestion or runny nose Itching throat, nose and/or ears Sinus pain Headache in some sufferers While not symptoms of hay fever, it’s worth noting that those who are prone to hay fever are also more likely to suffer from other allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema.

There is no cure for hay fever but there are smart ways of minimising your misery.

Step 1.Avoid symptom-triggering situations.

Try to avoid situations where your exposure to allergens may be high. The following tips will help:

– Find out about pollen counts in the area where you live.

– If your hay fever tends to occur during certain months, try to limit the time you spend outdoors, especially at dawn or dusk during those times.

– If you love the outdoors, try to get outside directly after an afternoon rain shower. Rain tends to wash pollen out of the air.

– Avoid activities like grass mowing and raking leaves, steer clear of grassy areas on high pollen count days and wait until pollen counts are low before doing any gardening.

– Minimise pollen build-up that might have gathered on your body and hair during the day by showering at night and changing into fresh clothes.

– Remove pollen and soothe your eyes by regularly splashing them with cold water. Smearing petroleum jelly around the inside edges of the nostrils helps to stop pollen from irritating the nose.

Step 2. Clean indoor air

-Try and keep your indoor area free of allergy triggers. One good way is to install air filters in your air conditioning and heater systems. These filters can remove up to 95% of allergen particles from indoor air.

-A dehumidifier is helpful to reduce humidity indoors. It also helps to keep doors and windows shut when outdoor pollen counts are high.

Step 3. Cut down on pet time.

– Yes, your beloved cat or dog may make your condition worse. That’s because pet dander (dead skin flakes) may trigger hay fever reactions.

– Try to keep pets outside as this will keep their dander away from you. It will also reduce the chances of them bringing pollen in from outside. If it’s a high pollen count day, and your pet comes indoors, smooth its fur down with a damp cloth or give it a bath once a week. Your pet probably won’t mind, especially if it’s hot outside.

– If you can’t keep your pet outdoors, set aside a specific area in the house for your dog or cat and make sure to keep it out of the bedroom and off the furniture. It’s also best to remove any deep pile carpets or loose rugs that collect dust mites and dander.

– Read: The top 10 dog breeds for allergy sufferers

Step 4. Clean and declutter your home.

Weekly cleaning can do wonders to rid your home of dust mites and pet dander.

A few tips:

– Make sure your vacuum cleaner has a good filter, and clean or replace it regularly. – Wash dishes and empty refuse bins every day to ward off allergy-inducing bugs like cockroaches.

– Regularly wash sheets in hot instead of cold water, as this kills dust mites. – Remove old carpets, rugs, wall-coverings and upholstered furniture, if you can. House dust mites frequently flourish here.

– Also try to reduce clutter that collects dust. This means keeping ornaments and bric-a-brac to the minimum.

– Keep a bedspread on your bed during the day and remove it at night when you go to bed. Step 5. Minimise moulds

-If your hay fever is triggered by moulds, make sure to minimise them in your home. Moulds flourish in humid indoor areas like bathrooms and kitchens, producing air-borne spores that may cause allergies.

– Get out the bleach and vigorously scrub all those showers, walls and other warm, humid household spots. Keep these areas well ventilated to reduce mould contact.

– Outside places containing dead leaves, dead plants and mulch are ideal breeding grounds for mould, so get someone to remove them on a regular basis.

Read: Fight the common mould allergy

Step 6. Make it easy for your nose.

– Some people find that sweet-smelling flowers or other strong odours in the air like smoke make their hay fever worse. If this is your problem, allergists advise that you should try and steer clear of these allergen-triggering odours as much as possible.

What are your treatment options?

A vast array of hay fever treatment options can reduce the symptoms, or even prevent them in some cases. There’s a wide variety of over-the-counter medication available for the treatment of hay fever, with antihistamines being one of the mainstays.

These drugs work by blocking histamine, the chemical responsible for the symptoms of hay fever. Prescription corticosteroids (usually prescribed in a nasal spray for hay fever sufferers) treat the inflammation associated with the condition, but it can take up to a week of use for sufferers to notice the benefits.

Thank you to Dr Susan Ford for the article.

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