Allergic To Summer – Harriet George

Musings from a peninsula

Allergic To Summer – Harriet George

The season of sneezing, watering eyes (that make it look like you have been crying) and headaches have begun for what is thought to be almost 10 million people in England, of all ages. This equates to almost one in four adults and 1 in 10 children of the population and what is causing that? HAYFEVER!

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, typically when it meets your mouth, nose, eyes, and throat and it causes a range of things, from sneezing and coughing to a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, loss of smell, pain around your temples and forehead, headache, earache, as well as just feeling tired! It mostly affects people from March to September when the pollen index is higher.

You can check what the pollen index is for the week on the Pollen forecast – Met Office

There are 4 stages of hay fever and as your body progresses through each stage the symptoms get worse

  1. Exposure

Hay fever is typically triggered when an allergen (such as pollen) enters the nose, sensitizing the mast cells that line the nasal passage. At this early stage, there may be no symptoms.

 2. Early-phase response

In response to the allergen, antibodies on the surface of the mast cells trigger an allergic response that releases compounds, such as histamines. When faced with an “invading” allergen, these compounds act on nerves and blood vessels, and it is this self-defence mechanism that triggers the symptoms we often recognize as hay fever.

3. Inflammation

White blood cells flood into the affected area, causing irritation and inflammation that lead to congestion. 

4. Late-phase response

Over the next 6 – 12 hours, inflammation leads to the release of more histamine, and worsening symptoms: itchy, runny nose, eye irritation, sneezing, and congestion. 

As someone who has hay fever and goes on runs in the morning and forgets to take my hay fever tablets, I often come back looking like an otter according to my friends, which I’ll tell you now is not a good look but what can you do about it?

  • Put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen (this is something I got told by the health centre and it surprisingly works)
  • Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
  • Stay indoors whenever possible
  • Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
  • Hoover regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen from getting into your eyes (benefit also include the fact that people can’t see your streaming eyes, and it’s a fashion statement
  • Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities
  • Take antihistamine or cetirizine.

If you do not have hay fever and a friend does, please be especially nice as over half of sufferers say that hay fever disrupts their sleep, leading to fatigue, a drop in productivity, and absence at work. Teenagers with hay fever are 40% more likely to drop grades at school due to their symptoms.

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