And those Plane Trees are pretty hardy; they tolerate pollution, neglect, vandalism and poor soils. However, we humans are not so tolerant. Those super sensitive ones amongst us don’t tolerate the Plane Trees too well at all – certainly not at this time of year when pollen and hair from the leaves and seed capsules are inhaled into our airways or lodge in our eyes.
Nevertheless, for many people hay fever is not just a spring time problem. The discomforting symptoms can occur all year round. In fact, so common is hay fever in Australia that the medical classification has changed from seasonal and perennial (throughout the year) to intermittent and persistent.
Of course, at this time of year the most likely trigger factors (or allergens as they’re called) will be the windblown variety. But, another very common trigger factor is exposure to dust mite – these microscopic animals live with us in their millions in our pillows, blankets, bedspreads, doonas, cushions, curtains and carpets. Rather hard to avoid! And perhaps not such a pleasant thing to think about, but it’s probably no surprise that so many of us get sneezy and wheezy when we breathe in the little creatures – whether they’re dead or alive.
Similar year-round symptoms can be caused by animal dander – the dead skin cells from our pets, especially cats. Mould and mould spores can cause the same sort of problems.
Exposure to cigarette smoke – your own or someone else’s – may increase sensitivity to allergies; and so-called occupational exposure may lead to a greater likelihood of developing hay fever. For instance, if you work with wood dust, seed dust, textile dust, rubber latex, some chemicals and certain foods and spices, then you may also have to work with hay fever.
The good news is that hay fever can usually be very well managed with medicines now available without prescription.
Of course avoiding trigger factors altogether is the best option. Clearly, that’s not always possible. And when medication is required, the one to choose will depend largely on the severity and frequency of symptoms. Mild symptoms, occurring less than four days a week or less than four weeks at a time, respond well to the new oral non-sedating antihistamines.
If symptoms adversely affect sleep or work, school or leisure activities; or the symptoms persist for more than four days a week or more than four weeks at a time, then the so-called intranasal corticosteroid sprays (Beconase, Flixonase, Rhinocort or Telnase) will probably be most helpful. If extremely itchy eyes are a major concern the anti-allergy eye drops (Eyezep, Livostin or Zaditen) should be considered; and maybe Azep or Atrovent spray when the nose resembles a constantly dripping tap. Your pharmacist can assist your selection of the most appropriate product.
And you can get even more detailed information on how best to manage hay fever from the “fact card” available from High Wycombe Pharmacy