ITCHY eyes, a runny nose and a headache… symptoms which those with hay fever will dread at the first sight of spring.
But now even more people are set to suffer as experts predict another million will develop an allergy to pollen this summer.
Getty – Contributor One million people are set to get hay fever for first time this summer, experts have warned
An estimated 26 per cent of adults in the UK reported suffering from hay fever in 2017, according to research.
Last year that figure increased to 31 per cent with a million new people buying hay fever medicines and remedies for the first time.
The rise is believed to be due to changes in our climate as weather conditions become more extreme clearly defined seasons are blurred.
If you cast your minds back to last winter, there was still snow on the ground in March.
This was quickly followed by a very warm, wet spring, with temperatures soaring into the low 20s by mid-April.
Experts say this condensed the flowering season of many trees and shrubs into a much shorter period of time leading to a “pollen bomb” as plants burst into life at the same time.
This concentration of many different types of pollen – which ordinarily would have occurred sequentially over a longer time – is thought to have triggered allergic reactions in people who had never suffered with hay fever before.
It also led to more severe symptoms in people with long standing hay fever.
According to the NHS, more than 10 million people in England have hay fever and it will affect up to one in five people at some point in their life.
You can get hay fever at any age, although it usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years.
It’s more common in boys than girls though in adults, men and women are equally affected.
Those with a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema, are more likely to develop hay fever.
A spokesperson from Allergy UK said: “It is possible at any point in life to develop an allergy to something previously tolerated.”
6 ways to treat hay fever
There’s currently no cure for hay fever, but most people are able to relieve symptoms with treatment – to a certain extent.
1. Avoid pollen
The most effective way to control hay fever is to avoid exposure to pollen.
But this is easier said than done – especially during the summer months when you want to spend more time outdoors.
Allergy UK say the best way to do this is to keep windows and doors closed when inside – especially early in the morning and evening when the pollen count is highest.
They also advise avoiding peak pollen times and wearing wraparound sunglasses and a hat to prevent pollen getting onto the face and in the eyes.
You should also avoid drying clothes on an outdoor washing line and shower when you get indoors to remove pollen from your skin and hair.
Antihistamines treat hay fever by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it’s under attack from an allergen. This stops the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
Antihistamines are usually effective at treating itching, sneezing and watery eyes, but they may not help with clearing a blocked nose.
They’re available in tablet form and also as nasal sprays and eye drops.
Corticosteroids (steroids) are used to treat hay fever because they have an anti-inflammatory effect.
When pollen triggers your allergic reaction, the inside of your nose becomes inflamed.
Corticosteroids can reduce the inflammation and prevent the symptoms of hay fever.
They are better at preventing and relieving nasal symptoms including sneezing and congestion.
For those requiring rapid short-term relief from severe symptoms, for example if you have an exam or driving test, a GP may prescribe a course of tablets.
4. Nasal sprays and eye drops
Nasal decongestants, in the form of a spray, can reduce the swelling in the blood vessels in your nose, which opens your nasal passage and makes breathing easier.
Eye drops can treat red, itchy and watery eyes as they usually contain antihistamine to reduce the inflammation.
Both nasal sprays and eye drops are available from a pharmacist.
5. Natural remedies
Many people are turning towards natural remedies rather than conventional medicine to alleviate symptoms.
Some try inhaling steam to clear congestion while others suggest drinking nettle tea – an anti-inflammatory.
A new natural approach is Breaze Vapour Oil, which can be inhaled from a tissue to ease nasal itching, interrupt sneezing fits and clear a stuffy nose.
For those with persistent hay fever symptoms, a GP may refer you for immunotherapy treatment.
This involves gradually introducing you to small amounts of the allergen, such as pollen, and monitoring your allergic reaction in a controlled environment.
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It can be given to you as an injection or a tablet.
Immunotherapy is only carried out in specialist medical centres, in case a serious allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, occurs.
It can improve your tolerance of the allergen, which can improve your quality of life and have long-term results.
What is a pollen bomb, how has UK weather created it and does it make hay fever symptoms worse?
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