Hay fever is also known as allergic rhinitis. Despite the name, it is not caused by hay and people do not get a fever, but it is extremely common, affecting around 1 in 5 Australians.
Signs and symptoms of hay fever include:
- a runny nose (clear and watery)
- an itchy nose
- itchy/watery eyes
- blocked nose
- snoring at night
- need to clear your throat
Hay fever is often confused for the common cold as it shares many symptoms.
What causes hay fever?
Pollens from grasses, weeds or trees, dust mite, mould and animal dander are common triggers of allergic rhinitis. The triggers are called allergens. Allergy testing can be done to identify the allergen/s so you can try to avoid it or reduce exposure to it. Some triggers are easier to avoid than others. Some are seasonal (e.g. pollen), whereas some triggers cause symptoms all year round (e.g. cat hair).
MANAGING HAY FEVER
Hay fever can be really tough to live with. It can affect your ability to sleep soundly, do schoolwork, do activities such as sport, and even socialise. Hay fever symptoms can get people down, especially when they occur every day. Some people can have mild symptoms and others have moderate to severe symptoms that really impact on their daily life.
As hay fever affects so many people worldwide, there are lots of treatments available to help people to manage it. These include:
- non-sedating (less likely to make you drowsy) antihistamines (taken as tablets, syrups, nasal sprays or eye drops)
- intranasal corticosteroid (INCS) sprays
- sprays containing both steroids and antihistamine
- salt water nasal sprays and rinses
Your doctor can recommend treatments for hay fever.
If you have had allergy testing, your clinical immunology/allergy specialist may suggest a treatment called allergen immunotherapy if it is available for the trigger causing your hay fever. Allergen immunotherapy is also known as desensitisation and it can help reduce the severity of symptoms or the need for regular medication.
Allergen immunotherapy requires being given the allergen in regular and gradually increasing amounts. This can be done in the following ways depending on the allergen:
- allergen drops or tablets under the tongue daily
- allergen injections monthly (initially weekly for the 4 weeks)
USING YOUR NASAL SPRAY CORRECTLY
It is important that you use your nasal spray correctly. Correct positioning means it will reach the right areas in your sinuses and help manage your symptoms.
- Shake the bottle before each use. If you’re starting a new bottle or you have not used your spray for a while, pre-fill the tubing (priming) according to manufacturer’s instructions. To do this, you usually need to do a first spray into the air. This is to make sure a full dose comes out.
- Blow your nose before spraying.
- Tilt your head slightly forward and gently insert nozzle into your nostril. Use your right hand for your left nostril and your left hand for your right nostril.
- Aim the nozzle away from middle of the nose and direct the nozzle backwards into the nasal passage (not upwards towards tip of nose but in line with the roof of your mouth).
- Sniff gently at the same time as spraying. Avoid sniffing hard during or after spraying.
- If clear fluid drips out, you need to adjust the angle of the bottle and/or the timing of the gentle sniff.