Hay fever: Expert discusses best time to take antihistamine
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Pollen counts across the UK are moderate to high today – the count is highest in London and the South East of England. From late March to mid-May, tree pollen is the culprit, triggering highly irritable symptoms in hay fever symptoms, from a runny nose to itchy eyes. What can hay fever sufferers do to keep their symptoms at bay?
The first step to managing hay fever should be to avoid the allergens that trigger symptoms, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
There are things to consider when it comes to outdoor exposure, indoor exposure, and exposure to pets.
- Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are at their peak, usually during the midmorning and early evening (this may vary according to plant pollen), and when wind is blowing pollen around.
- Avoid using window fans that can draw pollen and molds into the house.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.
- Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry; pollen may cling to towels and sheets.
- Try not to rub your eyes; doing so will irritate them and could make your symptoms worse.
- Keep windows closed and use air conditioning in your car and home. Make sure to keep your air conditioning unit clean.
- Reduce exposure to dust mites, especially in the bedroom. Use “mite-proof” covers for pillows, comforters and duvets, and mattresses and box springs. Wash your bedding frequently, using hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit).
- To limit exposure to mold, keep the humidity in your home low (between 30 and 50 percent) and clean your bathrooms, kitchen, and basement regularly. Use a dehumidifier, especially in the basement and in other damp, humid places, and empty and clean it often. If mold is visible, clean it with mild detergent and a 5 percent bleach solution as directed by an allergist.
- Clean floors with a damp rag or mop, rather than dry-dusting or sweeping.
Exposure to pets
- Wash your hands immediately after petting any animals; wash your clothes after visiting friends with pets.
- If you are allergic to a household pet, keep your pet out of your home as much as possible. If the pet must be inside, keep it out of your bedroom so you are not exposed to pet allergens while you sleep.
- Close the air ducts to your bedroom if you have forced-air or central heating or cooling. Replace carpeting with hardwood, tile, or linoleum, all of which are easier to keep dander-free.
The next step for hay fever sufferers, particularly if symptoms are bad, is to look to medication.
Hay fever is sometimes referred to as allergic rhinitis – a term used to describe an allergy to something like pollen, dust or mould.
The NHS advises when it comes to the treatment of allergic rhinitis: “Medication will not cure your allergy, but it can be used to treat the common symptoms.
“If your symptoms are caused by seasonal allergens, such as pollen, you should be able to stop taking your medication after the risk of exposure has passed.”
Antihistamines, available at pharmacies, can relieve symptoms of allergic rhinitis by blocking the action of a chemical called histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it’s under attack from an allergen.
If you have frequent or persistent symptoms, your GP may recommend a nasal spray or drops containing corticosteroids.
Immunotherapy, also known as hyposensitisation or desensitisation, is another type of treatment used for some allergies.
The NHS states: “It’s only suitable for people with certain types of allergies, such as hay fever, and is usually only considered if your symptoms are severe.
“Immunotherapy involves gradually introducing more and more of the allergen into your body to make your immune system less sensitive to it.
“The allergen is often injected under the skin of your upper arm. Injections are given at weekly intervals, with a slightly increased dose each time.”
Immunotherapy can also be carried out using tablets which are placed under the tongue.
When a dose is reached that’s effective in reducing the allergic reaction, the injections or tables will need to be continued for up to three years.
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