Understanding Hay Fever for Respiratory Patients

What is Hay Fever?

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is a common allergic condition characterized by inflammation of the nasal passages and other symptoms when exposed to allergens. These allergens are typically airborne particles, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, or mould spores. When a person with hay fever comes into contact with these allergens, their immune system overreacts, releasing histamines and other chemicals that cause symptoms such as:

  • Sneezing.
  • Runny or stuffy nose.
  • Itchy or watery eyes.
  • Itchy throat or roof of the mouth.
  • Coughing.
  • Fatigue and irritability.

The pollen season separates into three main sections:

  1. Tree pollen – late March to mid-May.
  2. Grass pollen – mid-May to July.
  3. Weed pollen – end of June to September.

Impact of Hay Fever on Respiratory Patients:

Respiratory patients may face unique challenges when managing hay fever, including:

  • Increased risk of asthma or COPD exacerbations due to allergen exposure.
  • Difficulty distinguishing between hay fever symptoms and respiratory symptoms.
  • Concerns about potential interactions between hay fever medications and respiratory medications.
  • Impact of quality of life, including sleep disturbance, fatigue and reduced activity.

Tips for Managing Hay Fever in Respiratory Patients:

  1. Treatment: Consult with your healthcare provider: Some allergy medications may interact with respiratory medications or exacerbate respiratory symptoms and respiratory patients should work closely with their healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive management plan tailored to their specific needs. Treatments include:
    1. Antihistamine tablets or nasal sprays.
    2. Corticosteroid nasal sprays and drops.
    3. Nasal decongestants.
    4. Eye drops.
    5. Immunotherapy and alternative therapies.
    6. Allergy desensitisation by a trained specialist.
    7. Rarely, a short course of steroid tablets is prescribed for a week or so. For example, for students sitting examinations. A short course is usually safe.   However, you should not take steroid tablets for long periods to treat hay fever, as serious side-effects may develop.
    8. Starting allergy medication two weeks before the season can prepare your body. Respiratory patients should talk with their doctor about this.
  2. Get the latest pollen forecast: View the Met Office weather map which provides a UK forecast of the pollen count and provides any hay fever sufferers with an early warning.
  3. Identify triggers: Determine which allergens trigger hay fever symptoms and take steps to minimize exposure, such as staying indoors during peak pollen seasons. Remember that the pollen count is highest in the early morning and late evening.
  4. Practice good allergy control measures: Implement strategies to reduce allergen exposure, such as
    1. Using air purifiers.
    2. Keeping windows closed.
    3. Using vaseline around your nose to trap pollen.
    4. Wearing wraparound sunglasses, a mask or a wide-brimmed hat.
    5. Using allergen-proof bedding.
    6. Washing or changing your clothes after being outside.
    7. Vacuuming regularly and wiping surfaces with a damp cloth.
    8. Drying clothes inside, not outside.
    9. Not keeping fresh flowers in the house.
  5. Monitor symptoms closely: Respiratory patients should monitor their symptoms closely and seek medical attention if hay fever symptoms worsen or respiratory symptoms escalate.

Conclusion:

Hay fever can significantly impact respiratory patients, but with proper management and proactive measures, symptoms can be controlled, and quality of life can be improved. By working closely with healthcare providers and implementing effective allergy management strategies, respiratory patients can better manage hay fever and minimize its impact on their respiratory health.

For personalized advice and treatment recommendations, respiratory patients are encouraged to consult with their healthcare provider.

Dr Harsha Kariyawasam, Consultant Allergist at the Royal National ENT Hospital says, “‘The most important step that an individual with allergic rhinitis should do is to have an accurate diagnosis. The exact allergen provoking symptoms should be identified. Where possible, allergen avoidance measures should be instigated. Treatment with medication, introduced in a step-wise manner should also be undertaken. We are getting very good treating allergic rhinitis and there are several effective new treatments available. Allergy desensitisation by a trained allergist is possible and there are several exciting vaccines either in practice or in development. Everyone deserves to enjoy spring and summer!”.

You can find more information on hay fever on the following websites:

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