Allergic rhinitis, commonly called hayfever, affects around 1 in 5 Aussies (and 8 in 10 people with asthma). Anyone that has experienced it knows it’s more than just a runny nose or itchy eyes – hayfever can mean more frequent sinus infections, reduced quality of sleep, and can make asthma more difficult to control.
Pollen seasons can last for several months, and while exposure is difficult to avoid, there are many ways to prevent or reduce your symptoms.
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recommends a range of simple lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your exposure to the pollens that cause hayfever symptoms:
- Keep your windows closed at home, and when in your car (and use recirculating air conditioning in your car where possible.)
- Use a clothes dryer – unless you have loads of space for indoor line drying, consider using a clothes dryer on high pollen count days, especially on clothing that you’ll come into close contact with, bedding and towels.
- Have someone else mow the lawn, and change their clothing when they come back inside. If you have to mow it yourself, take a non-drowsy antihistamine 20 minutes before heading outside, wear a mask over your nose and mouth, and sunglasses to protect your eyes. Shower and change your clothing as soon as you get back inside.
- Wash your pets, or keep them outside – dogs and cats like to roll around in the garden and are a great carrier of allergens. If keeping them outside is not an option, make sure you wash them as often as is safe for them (talk to your vet about a low irritant wash and seek advice on how often they can be washed without stripping the oils in their skin), and have someone brush out their hair before coming back inside. Do keep them off couches and beds.
It’s not completely practical (or possible) to completely avoid pollens, so sometimes it is all about treating the symptoms. ASCIA recommends:
- Talk to your pharmacist about allergy relief – antihistamines reduce or block histamines (the chemical produced when your body comes into contact with your allergy trigger), stopping allergy symptoms – including rashes, hives, itchy eyes or skin or a congested nose. There are many products on the market to help you treat seasonal allergies, and your pharmacist is best placed to advise you on what to use.
- Your local pharmacist can advise you about eye drops designed to relieve itchy, watery eyes; lozenges to soothe an irritated throat; and nasal sprays to reduce congestion. Saline nasal sprays are also excellent at keeping nasal passages clear (a must for anyone prone to sinus infections.)
- If your issues are especially severe, hard to manage or interfere with your life, go and talk to your GP, who can organise allergy testing. These tests will allow an allergy specialist to advise you on an appropriate treatment plan, which may include immunotherapy – a form of treatment that involves the regular administration of gradually increasing doses of allergen extracts over a period of years. This changes the way the immune system reacts to allergens, so that you can tolerate them with fewer or no symptoms – but it is not a quick fix, and can take several years of therapy to work.
For more advice on treating the symptoms of hayfever, talk to your Chemmart pharmacist or GP.