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What is Hayfever?
Hayfever is a condition that can be usually be managed without having to contact the practice. The NHS has classified hayfever as a “self care” problem. This means that where possible it should be treated using over the counter preparations. I will guide you through the symptoms and offer treatments.

What are the Symptoms of hayfever?

  • sneezing and coughing
  • 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
  • feeling tired

If you have asthma, you might also:

  • have a tight feeling in your chest
  • be short of breath
  • wheeze and cough

Hay fever will last for weeks or months, unlike a cold, which usually goes away after 1 to 2 weeks.

How can you treat or prevent the symptoms of Hayfever?

There are 4 antihistamine tablets available to purchase from your community pharmacy. Each of these works completely different, so if you have tried one, try the next and so forth. You are likely to find that one works for you and another works for someone else. These will aleviate all symptoms but if you have eye symptoms or nasal symptoms you can add an eye drop or a nose spray.

Tablets

The four over the counter antihistamines are

  • Loratadine – label says causes drowsiness, but most people find this less drowsy, once daily administration, cheap as comes as own brand
  • Cetirizine – label says causes drowsiness, but most people find less drowsy, once daily administration, cheap as comes as own brand
  • Acrivastine –  non-drowsy, can be taken up to 3 times a day – only comes as brand Benadryl, so is expensive – benefit is that you can take one in the morning and if you get more symptoms you can take in the evening too
  • Chlorphenamine – drowsy, lasts 8 hours, so can be taken upto 3 times daily

Try one of the above tablets and it should alleviate most of your hayfever symptoms. Once you have found an antihistamine which works for you it is advisable to take this every day during the hayfever season to prevent the symptoms starting. Note: You can only take one antihistamine in a day. Do not mix. 

Eye drops

If you have runny eyes, try sodium cromoglicate eye drops – this comes as own brand but is also an ingredient in opticrom and optrex allergy eye drops. These can be used safely alongside the tablets.

Nose Drops

If you have a runny nose you could add pseudoephedrine to dry the nose, for this reason I often recommend Benadryl plus, which contains acrivastine (an antihistamine) and pseudoephedrine (a nasal decongestant).
If you have a blocked nose you could try a nasal spray. Popular nasal sprays are beconase, flixonase and otrivine (otrivine should only be used for max 7 days). I often advise patients to use Beconase every day throughout the hayfever season.

Non medicated treatments and advice

  • Vaseline on around nasal area
  • keep windows closed early evening
  • put Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen
  • wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
  • 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
  • vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
  • buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter
  • do not cut grass or walk on grass
  • do not spend too much time outside
  • do not keep fresh flowers in the house
  • do not smoke or be around smoke – it makes your symptoms worse
  • do not dry clothes outside –  they can catch pollen
  • do not let pets into the house if possible – they can carry pollen indoors

What if none of the above works?

If you have tried all the above and are still suffering call the practice. We can prescribe a stronger antihistamine or you may need steroids. If steroids and other hay fever treatments do not work, your GP may refer you for immunotherapy at the hospital. This means you’ll be given small amounts of pollen as an injection or tablet to slowly build up your immunity to pollen. This kind of treatment usually starts in the winter about 3 months before the hay fever season begins.

Check the pollen forecast

Our lead practice pharmacist, Shilpa Patel, has been treating patients with hayfever symptoms for over 20 years and gives you a breakdown of over the counter treatments available to purchase from your pharmacy without the need to visiti your GP.

Shilpa says “all our patients can be supported to treat and prevent hayfever” and here is how: