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Spring is Hay Fever Season!

Dr Holly Harman MBBS, FRACGP

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, affects almost 1 in 5 people. It is caused by environmental allergens that come into contact with the nose or eyes. The most common allergens are pollens, dust mites, moulds and animal hair.

Symptoms include a runny nose, itchy nose, sneezing, itchy/watery eyes and snoring. Hay fever symptoms can be mild, but many sufferers experience more severe symptoms that can affect their day to day functioning.

Severe hay fever can lead to more frequent sinus infections and affect sleep quality, causing fatigue. Hay fever also affects children and in severe cases can impair learning and performance.

Thankfully there are now many effective treatments available to help manage symptoms. Oral antihistamines are commonly used, but many find these don’t have a significant effect on their symptoms, particularly nasal blockage or dripping and eye symptoms.

Steroid nasal sprays may be more effective for nasal symptoms. They have a potent anti-inflammatory effect, but are slow acting and need to be used regularly, like an asthma preventer.

Eye symptoms are best targeted with eye drops and there are good options available both over the counter and on prescription.

Natural products, such as salt water sprays or washes, can also provide symptom relief.

If symptoms are frequent and affecting day to day functioning, talk to your GP about allergy testing. Identifying a trigger is helpful for allergen avoidance or minimisation. It may also be worth considering a referral to an allergist for allergen immunotherapy, also known as desensitisation, to switch off the allergic reaction and reduce the need for regular medications.

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