Most of us welcome the longer, warmer days that spring and summer brings, but if you or your child suffers from hay fever this might not be the case.
Hay fever, also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, usually begins in childhood or during the teenage years, but you can get it at any age. It occurs when someone has an allergic reaction to an airborne substance, such as grass or tree pollen. When these tiny particles of pollen come into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, they irritate them and trigger an allergic reaction. The symptoms of hay fever are caused by this and can include sneezing, runny or blocked nose and an itchy mouth, nose and throat. The eyes can also be affected, becoming itchy, red and watery.
The best way to manage allergies is to avoid the trigger in the first place, although avoiding pollen can be difficult when you want your children to get outside and take advantage of the good weather. However staying indoors on warm sunny days, and particularly in the evenings when pollen levels tend to be higher, will certainly help. If you do go out it’s sensible to avoid cut grass and wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes.
Medication for hay fever can be very effective and includes tablets, liquids, nasal drops and eye drops. Antihistamines are probably the best known type of allergy medication and work by blocking the allergic reaction and so lessen the symptoms experienced. Some liquid antihistamines are available over the counter for children as young as one-year-old, whilst tablet form is available for those over six-years-old. Available antihistamines include chlorphenamine (Piriton), loratidine (Clarityn) and cetirizine (Zirtek, Children’s Benadryl). Eye drops containing sodium cromoglycate will reduce the eye symptoms of hay fever, and nasal decongestant drops containing xylometazoline (Otrivine Child Nasal Drops) are suitable for children from six-years-old and will help relieve a blocked nose.
More recently nasal powder sprays have been developed which form a physical barrier to allergens. As they are not absorbed by the body they do not interact with other medicines and are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Of these, Allergy Defence (by Care) is suitable for children from 18 months.
If symptoms of hay fever are not well controlled using OTC medicines please consult your GP. You should also refer to your doctor if your child has wheezing, shortness of breath or tightness of the chest as this could be due to asthma.
Richard Dunn is a community pharmacist with Gordons Chemists.
The content of this article is for general information only. The information is not for diagnostic purposes and should not be treated as such. You must not rely on the information in this column as an alternative to medical advice from your GP or other professional healthcare provider.
Established in 1980, Gordons Chemists are an independently owned retail pharmacy chain with nine pharmacies in Scotland. Find your local Gordons store at 1 Gracemount Drive, Edinburgh, EH16 6RR or 105 High Street, Musselburgh, EH21 7DA
Products described are available at most pharmacies and Gordons Chemists does not endorse any individual product. Always consult your pharmacist in relation to your individual symptoms.