Despite the cold weather, it is late March and the Hay Fever season will soon be upon us. Hay Fever affects 15% of the population and is due to an inflammatory/allergic response affecting different target organs, e.g. nose, eyes and chest. There is some yearly variation, but hay fever generally peaks in Ireland from mid-May to late June. Reactions before or after this are often due to other allergens, e.g. trees, shrubs and moulds particularly in late Autumn. Diagnosis is usually obvious from the classical symptoms of rhinorrhea, sneezing, watery eyes and perhaps “hay asthma” which can occur in 15-20%. Hay Fever can significantly affect overall general health and well being. The clinical diagnosis is usually confirmed by history and skin prick testing (SPT).
- Medication i.e. eye drops, nasal sprays, inhalants and antihistamines.
- Low dose sub lingual neutralisation – This involves serially diluting a standard extract of grass pollens by a factor of 5. Depending on the patient’s clinical sensitivity and allergy test result, one drop of a particular dilution is placed under the tongue until a relieving concentration is found. The patient is then given a bottle with this particular dilution, which should be taken regularly during the hay fever season. This is different to Sub lingual immunotherapy (SLIT) which involves a much higher dose of grass pollens taken regularly for three years.
- First Aid Treatments
Hay Fever sufferers are well aware of these but it is important to remember:
a. Keep windows of the house and car closed during peak pollen times i.e. late morning and afternoon
- Avoid mowing lawns or use a face mask if doing so
- Smear some Vaseline inside the nostrils to trap the pollen entering the nasal passages
- Use wraparound sun glasses particularly if eye symptoms are a problem feature
- Keep medication, including anti-histamines and decongestants ready for sudden attacks.
- Acupuncture – 1-2 treatments before the Hay Fever Season may be of benefit.