All about hayfever

Allergic rhinitis, or Hay Fever as it's more commonly known, can make spring and summer a tricky time. We find out about managing this common condition from Allergy New Zealand

Hay fever usually involves a runny, stuffy, itchy nose, and frequent sneezing. It can also affect your eyes, sinuses, throat and ears. 

Like any other allergy, allergic rhinitis is your body's immune system fighting an allergen, like  house dust mite, pet, pollen and mould, but for some reason your body's response is inappropriate. 

Hay fever is often considered a nuisance rather than a major disease but recent studies have revealed it can have a huge impact on quality of life.

About 20% of the population have Hay Fever, and one third of those develop symptoms before the age of 10. More than half of patients experience symptoms for four months of each year. Some have symptoms for nine months of the year. Secondary infection in the eyes and sinus' can also occur and Hay Fever is more common in Asthmas patients.

Causes and Treatment

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is usually triggered by wind-borne pollen from trees, grass and weeds. Early spring symptoms point to tree pollen, while nasal allergy in late spring and summer indicates that grass and weed pollens are the culprits. These seasons can be indistinct and vary throughout New Zealand due to the different climates as you travel south. This allergic reaction can also be caused by dust mites, mould and animals.

Your doctor can confirm the specific allergens causing your rhinitis by taking a complete symptom history, doing a physical examination, and performing skin prick tests.

Once you know what triggers your symptoms try and avoid them. 

Pets: Make sure you keep it outside and never let it in the bedroom. It is never easy trying to decide on a new home for a pet, but in some cases this might be the best option. If you re-home your pet do a thorough clean.

Dust mites: Use mite-proof covers for the mattress, duvet and pillows and remove items that collect dust from the bedroom. A good quality vacuum cleaner with HEPA filter for the exhaust air is essential to ensure that allergen is not disseminated in the atmosphere. Wash bedding frequently. If you have soft toys, freeze them overnight and air in the sun.

Pollen: It is difficult to avoid pollen, however you can avoid going outside when pollen counts are high. The amount of pollen in the air is highest:
• In the morning
• On windy days
• After a thunderstorm

Non-sedating antihistamine tablets or liquid are useful in alleviating some of the symptoms of rhinitis. They are helpful in controlling sneezing, itching and a runny nose. Anti-inflammatory nasal sprays reduce the inflammation in the lining of the nose. They work best when used in a preventative manner, just like inhalers for asthma. Ask your doctor about the appropriate medication.

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