READING: Don’t let it ruin your day: What you need to know about hayfever

Understanding my hayfever

Don’t let it ruin your day:
What you need to know
about hayfever

Although hayfever can cause discomfort, many people dismiss it as being nothing more than a nuisance that they have to live with.
The fact is that it’s treatable and GPs and pharmacists can help you improve your symptoms. Read on to find out what hayfever is, why you get it and what you can do about it.

Two min read

What is hayfever?

Did you know that in the early 18th century it was assumed that freshly cut hay was causing people to experience hayfever symptoms. However, we now know that hayfever is not caused by hay and it never causes a fever.

The medical name for hayfever is allergic rhinitis. It is caused by your nose and/or your eyes coming into contact with a trigger such as pollen, mould or dust. Your immune system mistakes the normally harmless trigger as being a threat and over-reacts by releasing defensive chemicals. One of these chemicals is called histamine. Another word for a trigger is allergen.

What are hayfever symptoms?

Hayfever symptoms range from mild to moderate and severe. They may also last a few days at a time or be with you for an entire season or year.

Many people with hayfever experience a stuffy or runny nose. You may sneeze and experience an itchy throat and red, itchy, watery eyes. Many people also have a feeling of liquid running down the back of their throat, which is known as postnasal drip.

You may also experience headache, disturbed sleep, snoring and tiredness during the day.

One of the main differences between hayfever and a cold is that a cold usually improves after a few days, while hayfever can last a few days, an entire season or longer. Another important difference is that hay fever is not contagious.

It is important not to confuse hayfever with a cold as they require different treatments. A pharmacist or GP can advise you on the most appropriate treatment for your symptoms.

A word about asthma

If you have asthma, you have an increased chance of having hayfever. Better control of your hayfever may help you control your asthma. If you have been diagnosed with asthma, it is especially important to tell your GP if you also experience hayfever symptoms.

What triggers hayfever in Australia?

Pollen – Grass pollen is the most common outdoor trigger of hayfever in Australia. Other common triggers are tree pollen and weed pollen. Pollen allergies are usually triggered in spring and summer, although the timing and severity of the pollen season varies considerably between years and places.

Pets – This can be a challenging allergy, particularly if a beloved pet is causing the symptoms. The source of the allergy is saliva or dead skin, known as dander, that falls from the animal. It’s important to note that pet dander, like pollen, can cling to clothing, furniture and even walls, so you may experience symptoms just by being close to the owner.

Mould – This is a type of fungus and thrives in warm, damp conditions. Mould is often found in bathrooms, under sinks and in wardrobes.

Dust mites – These creepy critters live in fabric. Your lounge, bedding and even your child’s soft toys are probably teeming with them.

Why you have hayfever

Scientists have known since the 1920s that many people are genetically predisposed to hayfever, which means it runs in families.1

Environment also plays a significant part in who suffers from hayfever. Research shows that people who immigrate to Australia from Asia are far more likely to have hayfever than people of European descent born in Australia.2

Other environmental factors such as climate change may also be contributing to a global increase in allergies, as warmer temperatures have been shown to promote the growth of certain triggers.2

Who can help with your hayfever?

Many people perceive hayfever as a relatively trivial condition, but studies have shown it can have a serious impact on your quality of life. Pharmacists and GPs understand this and will be able to give you good advice about relieving your symptoms. Your GP may also arrange tests to confirm your triggers if they decide this is needed.

References

  1. 1.Oritz RA, Barnes KC. Genetics of Allergic Diseases. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. Author manuscript. [Internet], 2016 Feb [cited 2019 Sept 20].
    Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4415518/pdf/nihms632330.pdf.
  2. 2. Thien F, Beggs PJ, Csutoros D et al. The Melbourne epidemic thunderstorm asthma event 2016: an investigation of environmental triggers, effect on health services, and patient risk factors. The Lan Planetary Hlth [Internet]. 2018 June [cited 2019 July 18]; 2(6) e255-63.
    Available from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(18)30120-7/fulltext.

Read next

Evidence-based information about controlling and treating your hayfever