What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is an inflammation in the nose which occurs when the immune system overreacts to allergens in the air. It does this as it mistakes pollen for something harmful like bacteria, which triggers the cold-like symptoms that comes with hay fever. It is called ‘hay fever’ as the most common type is triggered by pollen of seasonal grass and trees which are most prevalent in the haying season. However, it also affects people in different ways, depending on what allergens each person is allergic to. Some will only experience it for a few months whereas others can suffer all year round.
Symptoms are usually mild but for some it can be more severe and cause other issues such as sleep problems, and it is still not clear why some people are more susceptible to hay fever than others. One theory is that is could be hereditary, and if your parents have hay fever then you are also likely to suffer from it. Another suggestion is that it is due to your immune system being ‘out of practice’. If you weren’t exposed to microorganisms as a child, then later in life your body could mistake harmless things like pollen for bacteria and cause the reaction to it.
There are still many myths surrounding Hay Fever:
- You grow out of it
A higher percentage of children suffer from hay fever than adults, but while for some people the symptoms can be less severe or even disappear entirely as they age, this is not the case for everyone. According to the NHS, only 50% of sufferers believe they have improved after several years.
- You can only get it in the spring and summer
While it is more common for symptoms to show during these seasons, it can depend on the type pollen that affects you most. Grass pollen is released during spring and summer, but a lot of sufferers are allergic to tree, grass, and weed pollens which can cause hay fever symptoms all year round.
- Allergic to flowers
Hay fever symptoms are mostly caused from pollen that is airborne, from grass, trees, and weeds. However, most flower pollen is too heavy and sticky to be carried through the air, so it is less likely that it is the main cause of your hay fever symptoms.
- Antihistamines make you drowsy
In the past antihistamines had a reputation for causing drowsiness but medicine has advanced a lot further since they were first introduced, so now it is unlikely to cause drowsiness in most people.
- Hay Fever starts when you are young
Around 40% of children suffer from hay fever, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t develop the condition as an adult. In fact, recent studies have shown that there has been a surge in late-onset hay fever. This could be due to more pollution, climate change, more sterile houses, and new species of plants being introduced to the UK.
- Local honey helps to prevent it
It is an old wives’ tale that a teaspoon of local honey will help you build up an immunity to pollen and alleviate hay fever symptoms, but there is no scientific evidence to support this. This also goes back to the myth that hay fever sufferers are allergic to flowers – flower-based pollen is not the cause of hay fever, and bees do not pollinate grass and trees.
- Antihistamine medicines stop working after a while
Depending on the pollen count and your exposure to it, people’s symptoms can fluctuate between mild and severe. When symptoms are mild, it can seem as if the medication is working but if they get worse again, people believe they have become intolerant to antihistamines.
This is not the case. Symptoms will get worse or better depending on the pollen count and the environmental factors which could increase your exposure to it. Antihistamines can be taken for long periods of time without becoming less effective. In some cases, it can be that the over the counter medicines aren’t strong enough to counteract with your symptoms, in which case going to see your GP is the best option.
- Rain clears pollen
This hold some truth, as rain will clear the air of pollen and people are less likely to suffer from symptoms on a rainy day. However, stormy weather will have the opposite effect and breaks up and distributes pollen particles, making them easier to inhale. So, while rain showers my ease your symptoms, be cautious when this rain comes with windy and stormy weather.