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23/07/2021

Hay Fever season is here! Use these top tips to survive the months ahead

Hay Fever season is here! Use these top tips to survive the months ahead

The Asthma Society of Ireland has shared the findings of a patient and carer survey, which estimates that a staggering 80% of people in Ireland have hayfever.

Despite experiencing multiple hayfever symptoms, the survey revealed 30% of respondents had not sought advice from their healthcare provider on managing their allergies.   

Of those who have been diagnosed with allergies the most common allergies were to pollen (63%) or house dust mites (56%). Over 33% of respondents reported a diagnosis of allergy to pet or animal hair whilst over a fifth had confirmed allergies to certain foods.  

Sneezing, stuffy nose and runny nose were commonly experienced amongst the 655 patients surveyed.  Of the symptoms most frequently experienced 92% cited urge to sneeze or sneezing fits, 91% runny nose/rhinitis, 88% stuffy or itchy nose and 74% of respondents reported itchy burning eyes.

79% of respondents also report experiencing fatigue associated with allergies; for some patients, tiredness can be caused by certain antihistamines and not the condition itself. 

“The findings are concerning for the asthma population in Ireland as while all of those surveyed reported experiencing asthma symptoms, 30% had not sought advice from their healthcare practitioner in managing their symptoms,” said Dr Marcus Butler, Respiratory Consultant at St Vincent's University Hospital, and Medical Director at the Asthma Society of Ireland.

“While the symptoms are frustrating for many, unmanaged hayfever or allergies can cause asthma symptoms to heighten and escalate into an asthma attack. An asthma attack is a respiratory emergency that should be taken seriously by patients and carers. Allergies and hayfever with asthma can be fatal. At least one person dies every week as a result of asthma.  

“Our research showed that 50% of those surveyed had had an asthma attack in the past year. 14% had experienced an attack in the past four weeks alone, 19% in the past six months and a further 16% in the past 12 months.  So good hayfever management is crucial in preventing an asthma emergency.

“We really encourage patients to kickstart an improvement of their hayfever symptoms and better asthma control by flagging these symptoms with their GP. The results of this survey indicate that there would be a real value to all GPs routinely asking the following question with an asthma patient – “and, what about the nose”. If patients and GPs don’t discuss these symptoms, then they can’t create a plan for managing them.”

Top Tips to Manage Hay Fever Season include:

  • Speak to an experienced respiratory nurse from the Asthma Adviceline service on 1800 44 54 64 and put a hayfever management plan in place.
  • Whatsapp message the Asthma and COPD patient support service on 086 059 0132 for any questions/queries on asthma, hayfever and COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Speak with a healthcare professional about taking medication to prevent/reduce symptoms. Don’t wait until you feel unwell.  Early action is key to prevent an escalation of symptoms. 
  • Keep windows closed at night time or when the pollen count is high.
  • Monitor the pollen tracker and minimize time spent outdoors when the pollen count is high.
  • Stay away from areas with freshly cut grass and don’t keep fresh flowers in the house.
  • Apply vaseline around nostrils when outdoors in order to trap pollen.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to minimize levels of pollen irritating your eyes. Splash your eyes with cold water to help flush out pollen and soothe and cool your eyes.
  • Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes if you have been outdoors for an extended period of time.
  • Exercise in the morning rather than the evening when there are higher rates of pollen falling. 
  • Avoid drying clothes outdoors and shake clothes outside before bringing them inside – particularly bedclothes.
  • Minimise contact with pets that have been outdoors and are likely to carry pollen. 

Ruth Morrow, Respiratory Nurse Specialist at the Asthma Society of Ireland said: “The Asthma Society wants to provide practical support for alleviating unpleasant hayfever symptoms. Hayfever is a blanket term used to describe seasonal allergies, often stemming from pollen in the air. It is important to clarify that it is not related to hay and fever is not actually an associated symptom. Usual symptoms include runny nose with clear or pale-coloured mucus, sneezing, red, watery eyes and itching around the nose, mouth or eyes. 

"If untreated, it can lead to nasal congestion, postnasal drip, coughing, lower respiratory problems, sore throat, headache, decreased sense of smell, ear or sinus infection, puffiness or dark circles under the eyes, and fatigue.

"Spring and Summer are the peak times for people with hayfever with 51% reporting increased symptoms at this high pollen time, that can really impact on quality of life and asthma management.  Lying in bed at night and being close to meadows, fields or trees can further aggravate symptoms.  

"The ALK supported pollen tracker on asthma.ie helps us to highlight when periods of high pollen or bad weather are coming up so people with hayfever can better manage their symptoms.  We have also put together a number of practical tips for management of hayfever symptoms.”   

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