Spring is here!
As nice as the warmer weather and more daylight is, for some of us, it means a return to runny noses, sneezing, watery eyes and headaches. Seasonal allergies are common in spring because there is plenty of pollen and new plant growth which causes the allergy. For some people however, their suffering is perennial which means all year round. This is common when you are allergic to dust, pet hair or other irritant substances. The severity and type of hayfever or allergy will vary from person to person, but can make you miserable if not treated and the symptoms prevented.
Those people that have allergies causing dermatitis or asthma are generally more likely to suffer from hayfever; but for everyone the answer to relieving hayfever is to minimise the exposure to whatever is causing the symptoms.
Most hayfever sufferers complain of sneezing, itching and burning eyes and throat, and either blocked or running nose. Other symptoms that may occur are aches in the jaw and teeth caused by the pressure of blocked sinuses, popping in the ears, headaches and generally feeling miserable.
When you have an allergy the body releases a substance called histamine, which is the substance that causes all those miserable symptoms.This is why the most common medicines used to treat allergies are called ANTIhistamines. These block the effect of histamine and will prevent any more histamine release, which should prevent the allergy getting worse. To get the best out of your antihistamine, you need to take it before your body is exposed to the substance that is causing your allergy, otherwise, your body will have to work through the histamine that has already been released before it will feel like the antihistamine is working. I usually advise people to take their antihistamine as soon as they wake up in the morning, if they are taking a non-drowsy anthistamine. Antihistamines that can make you sleepy are recommended to take at bedtime for obvious reasons. Your pharmacist will explain which one they've recommended and why and the best time to take it.
Avoiding the substance that causes the condition is always better than taking medicine to treat the result of the exposure, but unfortunately this is not always possible especially if you're a long term sufferer to something like dust (which is everywhere!). Long term allergy sufferers often have to use a preventative nasal spray to relieve their allergies. These sprays contain a steroid medicine that helps to prevent your body from responding to an allergen. These sprays are designed for long term use, but they must be used properly for them to work effectively. Most people don't realise how important it is to use their spray EVERY day. This is because it can take time for the medicine to start working properly. You'll get some benefits as soon as you start using it, but it can take weeks for the medicine to reach its full effect. Most of these sprays need to be discarded 90 days after you open them, so remember to mark the date it was opened on the label, or bottle.
Other treatments for the nasal blockage and congestion of hayfever usually involve a nasal solution that may be either dropped or sprayed into the nostrils. These work by washing out the nostrils or by helping to dry up and prevent further secretions from the sinuses running down the nostrils or down the back of the throat. Decongestant nasal preparations should only be used for up to three days running as they can cause nasal congestion to worsen if used for prolonged periods of time. Seek advice from your community pharmacist as to the correct nasal spray that you can use to relieve and prevent ongoing congestion.
A cough may occur from persistent nasal secretions running down and irritating the back of the throat. This is called post-nasal drip, and may also be helped by antihistamines. A cough medicine should not be used to treat this type of cough becuase it isn't going to help.
Feel free to pop in any time to talk to one of our experienced pharmacists about the right medicine to treat hayfever, and seek their advice about preventing as well as treating hayfever whether you suffer from this occasionally or every day.