Written by Dr Umair Masood, October 2018
Hayfever is a common complaint that can range from a minor annoyance to a severe illness. It effects about 1 in 5 people and is caused by allergens in the environment. Common allergens include dust, pollens, grasses, animal hair and mould. Sometimes this is obvious, other times it may be tricky to identify these allergens. Further investigations such as allergy testing and referral to an allergy specialist may be needed.
Common symptoms of hayfever (or allergic rhinitis as we call it), include sneezing, a runny, itchy nose and itchy or watering eyes. Some people rub their nose so vigorously they may develop a horizontal line across the bridge of the nose from the so-called “allergic salute”
Other symptoms may result from mucous obstructing the throat and sinuses. These include nasal congestion and snoring.
When hayfever gets really bad, people can have complications. These include tiredness, poor sleep, poor concentration, headaches, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening asthma. Controlling hayfever in asthmatics is really important, as better control of allergic rhinitis has been shown to result in better asthma control in both adults and children.
So hayfever is not always something to be taken lightly. The good news is, there are very effective, safe treatments available.
The first step is often to identify and avoid the offending allergen (if possible). This may include eradicating mould or controlling dustmite by special cleaning methods. Nasal steroid sprays are often an effective long term treatment. Because the area sprayed inside the nose is so small, they are also very safe. Other treatments include nasal decongestants or saline irrigation, as well as antihistamine tablets. Desensitisation treatment is a longer term therapy, whereby tolerance to an allergen is gradually built. This is often overseen by an allergy specialist or immunologist.
The best treatment options for each person will be different, as will be the safety concerns, for example the risk of nosebleeds and allergies. It is recommended you speak with a health professional regarding the best options for you.