I’ve had regular bouts of hay fever for as long as I can remember - being a child of primary school age and needing to come back indoors while my friends stayed out playing during the summer, and sitting in exam halls in high school years, very self-conscious about the amount of noise I was making while trying to stop my nose from running and the rest of the room is silent. Right through to now as an adult, needing to take a nap during the day because my eyes are so swollen and itchy that I can barely keep them open.
The summertime and warmer months are by far the worst times of year for me with the pollen count typically being higher, and the climate being drier in general. Being outdoors during this time, especially on nice days when pollen is rife in the air, is a regular trigger for me. Although I can still suffer at night, mornings and afternoons tend to be the most active times of days for my hay fever to kick in.
Unsurprisingly, outdoor areas featuring grass, flowers and trees (or actual hay!) tend to be the environments most likely to trigger symptoms, but even in the city symptoms can be really bad on days when the pollen count is high.
For me, the main symptoms are an incessantly runny nose, impossible-not-to-scratch irritation in and around the eyes and itchy inner ears. This sometimes happens to the point of debilitation and complete inability to concentrate on anything else. Occasionally, during especially bad attacks, I can experience a very dry mouth along with tingly tongue, catchy cough and visible irritation of the skin. I’ve also experienced sporadic shortness of breath.
There have been days when I’ve needed to pick up work later at night due to being waylaid throughout the day, and in the past when I worked in hospitality, there were times when I really had to struggle through shifts (and was probably absolutely useless on the job). Similarly with home and social life, there are times where I’ll just not go to certain events because I know it’s a bad idea. My wife likes to sit in the garden when the weather is nice - something I don’t normally allow myself the risk to accompany her in unless I have nothing else on that day.
Unusually, being on holiday abroad in hotter climates can be hit or miss - depending on the location, I can be either mild to moderately affected throughout, or experience no symptoms whatsoever for the duration.
I’ll take a pre-emptive daily antihistamine as a first port of call, when I notice ‘hay fever season’ kicking off. Cetirizine used to help in a minor way, but of recent years it seems not to make a dent. Loratadine has never worked for me at all. The more modern offerings such as Treathay and Allevia seem to mitigate symptoms somewhat more effectively, but on bad days - if it’s happening, it’s happening.
When the situation is in ‘damage control’ mode, I’ll use a nasal flush such as Sterimar, cleansing eye drops (I’ve found these to be much of a muchness in terms of effectiveness and have tried them all!) - as well as regular handwashing, nose-blowing and clothes-changing. If an attack feels beyond repair, I’ll take one of the aforementioned naps where possible, or stem the flow of the runny nose element by stuffing paper tissues in there.
In the past, I have been referred by my GP to receive a subcutaneous injection. I did this once, but considering it cost £80 and didn’t eradicate my symptoms - as well as the associated risks around compromising the immune system and a host of side effects - I decided not to do it again. I’ve been prescribed stronger antihistamines such as Fexofenadine by the GP also. However, this is now available for relatively cheap over the counter as an active ingredient within the Allevia and Treathay products.
I would fully advise anyone who suffers from hay fever to attack it as much as it attacks you - being passive and wallowing during an attack is the worst thing you can do. Being active, trying different antihistamines to find the one that works best for you, and trying to clean and flush the affected areas thoroughly are all good ways to mitigate the symptoms on especially bad days. Otherwise, I’d offer that staying indoors can help during high-pollen days (even though it can be incredibly FOMO inducing!). Some words of encouragement would be that when you are having a particularly itchy, sneezy, drippy day - remember that it’s highly unlikely that you will have two in a row!
Prabjit Jassal, one of our Phlo Pharmacists, has listed the top antihistamine medications to help with the symptoms of hay fever you may be experiencing.
For some medications, it can take up to two weeks to reach the optimum therapeutic effect.
There’s no better time to become part of the Phlo community. Take control of your medication management and join the 1,000s of patients we’ve helped safely manage their medication.