Around one in five of the UK population suffers from hayfever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, grass pollen being the most common trigger from May to July/August. Tree pollen is another common culprit, typically earlier in the season, or moulds and fungal spores which peak towards autumn.
As well as the common hayfever symptoms - itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny or blocked nose - you may find that you develop asthma, or that your existing asthma gets worse. Wheezing, coughing, breathlessness or a tight chest can all be triggered by pollen or mould spores in the air. Some people are badly affected when outside during the day, but for others it may not be until the night, after a day of high pollen counts, that asthma symptoms cause problems.
Avoiding pollen completely is impossible but simple measures to limit your exposure can sometimes help; these include keeping car windows shut but air conditioning on, or showering and washing your hair after you have been outside. The Met Office publishes information online on pollen counts - when the count looks high you may want to limit the time you spend outdoors.
If hayfever triggers your asthma then it is best to take action early in the season, ideally a few weeks before your symptoms typically begin and certainly before they become too established. Treating the underlying hay fever effectively will lead to less severe asthma symptoms; the first step is generally an oral antihistamine, which blocks the body’s reaction to the allergen, the release of histamine. There are now a number of non-drowsy antihistamines, available from pharmacies or on prescription, so you should be able to find one that suits you and does not affect your daily life. If your symptoms are more severe you may prefer to start treatment with a nasal steroid spray. This can be used alone or with an oral antihistamine and can be effective at clearing the itch and congestion in your nose. It needs to be used daily though and will take several days to build up its effect. Eye drops can also be added if itchy and watery eyes are a particular problem for you.
Treat your asthma symptoms as you would normally - take your reliever (usually a blue inhaler) when you need it and make sure you are taking your preventer (brown) every day as prescribed. If you are needing your reliever inhaler three or more times a week then you will probably need to increase the dose of your preventer.
Speak to your doctor if things do not improve or if you feel that the combination of hayfever and asthma is making life miserable - there are other things you can try in order to restore your enjoyment of summer.
Our doctors can prescribe all of the most common inhalers and provide you with your Personal Action Plan, as well as a prescription strength antihistamine all without the need for a face-to-face visit.