Hay fever season is well and truly upon us! Itchy eyes, sneezing, a constantly dripping watery nose is not uncommon for many at this time of the year. Sadly, many accept hay fever as the norm – but there are lots we can do to treat it!
Asthma and hay fever
If you have asthma and hay fever then treating your hay fever can actually improve asthma control! The nasal airways and lung airways are linked – they're essentially one long system of the same tissue with the same lining. If the nose airway lining is inflamed (as it is in hay fever), it can also affect the lungs and hence, asthma symptoms can get worse with poorly managed hay fever. For patients with asthma and hay fever – we work hard to control the hay fever symptoms so that the patient’s asthma is better under control (we work on asthma as well!).
Antihistamines and hay fever
Hay fever treatment doesn’t mean just popping an antihistamine tablet; patients often think this is the only option for managing their watery, gritty eyes and sneezing – it’s not! Antihistamines can be great at relieving the itchy eye symptoms and the sneezing, but if you're really blocked up in the nose it might not be the best option. A nasal corticosteroid spray is usually the best thing for patients with lots of nasal symptoms (congestion, sneezing, dripping) – and it is most effective if you use it long term over a period where your hay fever spikes (Spring for most patients). Lots of sprays are available over the counter without a prescription – the key is using it correctly and ensuring you spray the material INTO the nasal cavity and not elsewhere (trust me I’ve seen people spray things in lots of odd places). If regular nasal corticosteroid sprays aren’t cutting it – you can chat to your GP about more options.
Hay fever shouldn't be underestimated. It can affect quality of life – people can feel dreadful with their symptoms. I often have patients walk into the consulting room during Spring as if they have a cold; their nose is blocked and their eyes are bloodshot – they’re often surprised when I mention that we can improve their quality of life in Spring (it doesn’t have to be hell!) with some simple measures. Thunderstorm asthma is a phenomenon that can occur in Spring or Summer when pollen counts are high and a windy, thunderstorm occurs- it proved to have devastating consequences in Victoria in 2016 with numerous deaths. Having hay fever, with or without asthma, leaves people at higher risk of asthma symptoms during thunderstorm asthma periods – treating the hay fever at these high pollen times (usually end of September to New Year’s Day) can keep you well even in thunderstorm periods.
Hay fever in a nutshell- it’s about much more than itchy eyes and sneezing