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You should seek medical advice if your hay fever symptoms become severe.

You should seek medical advice if your hay fever symptoms become severe.

Got the fever?
It’s that season again, but don’t give up hope. Environmental health officer LT Mark Tamblyn can offer some relief.

HAY fever, in its strictest meaning, is confi ned to pollen allergy. But in popular understanding it is taken to mean a runny nose due to allergy. There are a number of allergies that will cause a runny nose (allergic rhinitis) and pollen is only one of these.

Hay fever triggers include not only grass, fl ower and tree pollens, but also animal fur, dust mite, chemical fumes, micro-organisms such as bacteria or viruses and molds, as well as some foods.

Once symptoms of hay fever have emerged, they tend to persist for a long time. Seasonal hay fever comes from seasonal allergens, such as pollens, while year-long hay fever comes from perennial allergens such as moulds and mites.

What causes it?

THE REASON a person becomes sensitised to allergens is not known, but it seems to be related to continued exposure.

Smoke and fumes
In humans, there is some evidence that chronic exposure to smoke, particularly tobacco smoke and car exhaust fumes, may sensitise the mucosa (lining) of the nose, throat and trachea (windpipe) to protein particles in the air over a one or twoyear period.

This can produce allergic reactions to inhaled proteins.

The world around you
There is increasing evidence that modern air pollution, containing a host of known and unknown chemicals, is partly responsible for the increase in airborne allergy in recent times.

Allergic rhinitis appears to be a mainly recent phenomenon (within the past 150 years), possibly because of this increase in pollution.

Where you work
Offi ce, factory and farm workers are exposed to many different chemicals in the workplace, which may precipitate an allergic reaction in the form of runny nose, watery eyes or bronchial asthma.

Air-conditioning may recycle moulds, chemicals, bacteria, viruses, tobacco smoke, perfumes and toiletries around the building.

Family members are similarly exposed to chemical fumes that come from furnishings around the home as well as exposure to cleaning substances. Even clothes may have chemical smells that can trigger an allergy.

Allergies can also come from things of animal origin such as hairs of household pets. Gas fumes from heaters are also known to cause illness.

What you eat
Allergy can come from natural honeys and chamomile tea. Food allergy is well known in some patients with hay fever. Chocolate has been proven to contribute to salicylate intolerance, leading to asthma and hay fever.

How can it be treated?

HAY fever is only considered an annoyance, but if the symptoms become severe they can be a serious problem to health and lifestyle. In this case, treatment may be needed by a doctor.

You should defi nitely seek medical advice if your hay fever is accompanied by asthma, or if you want to know what allergen is the cause of your rhinitis.

In most cases, an environmental physician or Allergist can provide immunotherapy, which will build up your tolerance and can usually provide good relief from symptoms.

There must be a positive skin reaction to an allergen for immunotherapy to work, but sometimes the benefi t can be quite dramatic.

For pollens, animal hair, molds and dust mites, you could have a RAST test performed by a doctor. This is a blood serum test that can be performed for hay fever by a medical laboratory, but it is not always positive, even in the presence of airborne allergy.

Skin test
Alternatively, you could have a skin test performed by an environmental physician or allergist.

This is the most reliable test for identifying allergens. Specifi c allergens are used to detect reactions to specifi c proteins present by applying these to the skin. These skin reactions are carefully read and tested against control substances from the laboratory.

Once the cause of your allergy has been ascertained and a positive skin test obtained, then a specifi c vaccine can be created to desensitise you against the allergen that is triggering your symptoms.

Vaccines contain small amounts of the airborne allergens to which you are allergic. The body will defend itself by making antibodies to the allergens injected. This helps build up your defences against further reaction.

Also, injections “switch on” a part of your immune system, which acts to reduce allergic responses. No immunotherapy can guarantee complete success with everyone.

But it is possible to get complete, or almost complete relief of the distressing symptoms of your allergies, provided your allergy testing has correctly identifi ed the allergens which cause your symptoms, and the immunotherapy treatment is given for a suffi cient length of time.


SYMPTOMATIC treatment relief for itches, rashes, a runny nose and eyes or hives can be obtained through the use of antihistamine tablets or capsules from your local chemist and these can give good relief in most cases.

It is best to use a non-sedating type, which does not make you sleepy. If you have a sinusitis, productive cough or an allergic eye condition, then ask your chemist for a suitable decongestant use.

Decongestant eye drops can also be bought and are useful for red, itchy, watery eyes. If you have a rash or hives, then your chemist can supply suitable soothing creams, or creams containing antihistamines steroid preparations, which will ease the effect of the rash.

Women who are pregnant, or likely to become pregnant, should avoid but essential medication until the baby is weaned. In this instance, a visit to a doctor for advice and treatment is necessary.

Preventative measures
If your allergy is severe, you should avoid hot drinks as these increase the blood fl ow, swelling and blocking of nasal mucosa. Air-fi ltering units help remove unwanted dust and pollen grains.


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