●● WITH Dr Paul Bowen, a GP with McIlvride Medical Practice, Poynton, and executive chair of NHS Eastern Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). SUMMER is officially upon us and I have already seen a number of patients suffering with hay fever.
Sneezing fits, runny noses and itchy eyes can cause misery to hay fever sufferers, but the good news is that it is possible to control the symptoms by taking a few simple steps, even in landlocked places like Eastern Cheshire where pollen tends to hang around longer.
I’d recommend wearing wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you’re outdoors.
You should remove pollen from your body by changing your clothes and taking a shower after being outdoors.
It’s also a good idea to try and stay indoors when the pollen count is more than 50, usually in the early evening and when it’s humid or windy.
If you live in a tall building, keep windows closed at noon as pollen rises.
If you are a hay fever sufferer, it’s not a good idea to put washing outside to dry if the count is high, as pollen can get trapped in the fibres.
Do without fresh flowers in the house and vacuum (ideally using a machine with a HEPA filter) and damp dust regularly.
Plan your garden carefully with low-risk plants and ask someone else to cut the grass if you can.
When driving, it’s important to keep car windows closed and you should consider buying a pollen filter for the air vents. Most cases of hay fever can be controlled using over-the-counter medication available from a pharmacist.
In fact, most cases we see as GPs could have been easily managed through speaking to your pharmacist.
A combination of an antihistamine tablet, eye drops and/or a nasal spray can sometimes be needed.
Only if the above steps, including the addition of the above medicines, don’t work, should you consider speaking to your GP.
More advice is available online from Allergy UK, the Met Office and NHS Choices.
If symptoms persist year round, you may need to speak to your GP, however.
Hay fever usually begins in the early teens and peaks in your 20s.
People become less sensitive to pollen as they get older so by the time you’re in your mid-40s, hay fever may just be a bad memory.