Air Pollution, Hay fever and the Treatment

hay feverEvery year in the UK millions of people experience the discomfort and symptoms associated with seasonal allergic rhinitis, better known as hay fever. In fact, health experts say Britain currently has one of the highest rates of hay fever in the world with around a quarter of the population suffering with it.

2014 UK Air Pollution

As many will know, this week has seen many parts of the UK affected by high levels of air pollution. The smog-like conditions are a dangerous mix of dust from the Sahara with local and continental pollution. One poll conducted this week of 532 asthmatics for Asthma UK discovered that 30% have suffered an attack because of the pollution and 84% said they are using their blue reliever inhaler more frequently than usual.

Dr Keith Prowse, honorary medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation, spoke of the danger the Saharan dust and air pollution may have a “significant impact” on those with respiratory problems.

“People who use a reliever inhaler should make sure that they carry it with them. If they feel that their conditions are worsening then they should contact their GPs” he said.

According to the Defra (the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) website, those with lung and heart conditions have been told to cut down or avoid outdoor strenuous physical activity and those feeling the repercussions of pollution – including sore eyes, coughs and sore throats – are advised to reduce the amount of activity and time spent outdoors.

Hay fever symptoms and cause

Symptoms include sneezing, a blocked or runny, nose, headaches, red, itchy, or watery eyes, and are caused by an allergic reaction from pollen in the air that has been released from grasses, weeds or trees, usually during the spring and summer months. The plants produce ‘allergens’ – substances that trigger an allergic reaction.

For those unfortunately with hay fever, your body is producing immunoglobulin when you come into contact with pollen allergens and mistakes it for something harmful like a virus, your immune system overreacts and then the release of chemicals is triggered into certain cells in the eyes, nose and throat. One of the chemicals is histamine and it is this histamine which is responsible for the troublesome symptoms of hay fever.

Treatment

Prior to seeing a GP, you can speak to your local pharmacist about your symptoms as over-the-counter medicines may be able to help such as antihistamines; Loratadine is a popular non-drowsy antihistamine and can be taken as an ‘as required’ treatment when symptoms arise or as a ‘preventative’ method before you leave the house and know the pollen count is high. Non-drowsy antihistamine nasal sprays such as Prevalin can also be used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever in the nose and eyes. Alomide eye drops is another over-the-counter treatment are used to relieve the symptoms of hay fever such as red, itchy, watery and puffy eyes. The eye drops need to be used regularly to achieve relief from the symptoms. Once your symptoms improve, you should continue to use the drops regularly for as long as necessary to prevent the allergy.

There is also prescription-only corticosteroid nasal sprays such as Nasonex, which works at reducing the inflammation inside your nose after pollen has triggered an allergic reaction. Whether it’s hay fever, dust allergies or a seasonal problem, Nasonex can prevent you from suffering and allow you to enjoy life again.

All of the above treatments are available today from Medical Specialists™ Pharmacy at low prices, in addition to a wide range of asthma inhalers such as the blue reliever Ventolin Evohaler; asthma has been often linked to hay fever and both conditions need to be closely monitored and treated.

Who is at risk?

Around 2 in 10 people in the UK have hay fever, usually beginning in childhood and during the teenage years. The condition may actually disappear or improve in some cases, usually after suffering with symptoms each season for many years.

It is unclear what causes the immune system to react in the way it does to cause hay fever, but the condition tends to run in families. Your hay fever risk is also increased if you already have asthma or eczema or if you have already have hay fever, you are more likely to develop eczema or asthma.

The pollen count

The millions of people with hay fever are probably familiar with something called the pollen count, which is average number of pollen grains within one cubic metre of air over a period of 24 hours. As different people may have symptoms from certain types of pollen only, there are pollen counts for grass, tree and weed pollen and fungal spores and sufferers are usually advised to monitor weekly pollen forecasts so they can decide when it is best to begin or stop treatment. The pollen count is affected by weather and there is normally more pollen on dry, sunny days and much less pollen in the air when it is raining.

The pollen count forecast is normally judged as:

. Low: less than 30 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.

. Moderate: 30-49 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.

. High: 50-149 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.

. Very high: 150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air.

In the UK, the pollen count season is segregated into three sections:

. Tree pollen – late March to mid-May.

. Grass pollen – mid-May to July.

. Weed pollen – end of June to September.

This is only an approximate guide, with the pollen count season occasionally starting in January or ending as late as November.

As noted earlier, allergens may also cause asthma symptoms to flare-up such as a shortness of breath, tight chest and coughing and wheezing. There has been evidence to show a clear association between hay fever and asthma and your asthma symptoms may become more severe when your hay fever symptoms occur fever, or asthma symptoms may only flare-up when you have hay fever. People with both conditions should speak to their GP or an asthma nurse as soon as possible as it is imperative to treat both conditions with the appropriate medicines.

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