Why are symptoms of hay fever so severe this year, and how can you manage them?


Hay fever sufferers are currently having an especially difficult time, with many describing their symptoms as “very severe” as summer approaches.

The first heatwave of the year hit the UK this week, with some regions of England seeing temperatures over 32°C. As a result, the Met Office issued a level three heatwave notice for the south-east of the country.

The discharge of grass pollen, which the great majority of hay fever patients are sensitive to, was in full swing as a result of the hot weather, pushing pollen levels to high or very high across the UK.

Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen, which makes sufferers react when it gets in their mouth, nose, eyes, or throat.

While grass pollen is currently approaching its peak, according to the Met Office, this year’s quantities are not “particularly noteworthy” in comparison to past years.

What then is making this year’s hay fever symptoms so severe? All the information we have is as follows:

Why do hay fever symptoms feel really bad right now?

According to Dr. Luke Powles, clinical director of Bupa Health Clinics, “Over the last two years, Covid-19 limits have meant that we’ve spent more time indoors than we would have otherwise.”

“If a result, people may have received less pollen exposure than usual, which could exacerbate hay fever symptoms as we begin to spend more time outside. This is because spending time outside helps us develop a certain amount of immunity to pollen, so if you don’t get that exposure, you might not be as immune to pollen as you normally would be.

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Additionally, as more pollen is produced by light in hotter climates like the one we’re in now, allergy symptoms may get worse.

“As we move into the spring and summer months, we’ve noticed an increase in patients seeking care for hay fever symptoms in our health clinics, and our GPs have been able to provide support and guidance for managing symptoms.”

The weather that Britain has experienced over the past few months may have made pollen grains this year more “potent,” which might be aggravating symptoms, says Yolanda Clewlow, relationship manager for health and air quality at the Met Office.

According to the springtime weather, “the intensity of these pollen grains could be more intense this year,” she stated.

“Even if the levels aren’t significantly different, a warm and wet May coupled with a rather warm spring implies there’s a risk that the pollen that has formed is extremely strong.”

Why does hay fever only affect some people?

Dr. Powles claims that no one is truly sure why some people experience hay fever while others do not. According to him, genetics or the health of your gut may play a role in whether or not you develop hay fever.

Additionally, new research has begun to link allergic disorders like hay fever to an unbalanced intestinal microbiome (gut flora).

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The symptoms of hay fever can also be brought on by other things, such stress.

According to Dr. Powles, stress may make people more susceptible to hay fever because it causes your body to release hormones and other chemicals, including histamine, a potent molecule that triggers allergic symptoms. “Stress can exacerbate an allergic reaction by raising the level of histamine in your bloodstream, even though it doesn’t directly cause allergies.

According to several research, drinking alcohol might either cause or exacerbate the common hay fever symptoms of sneezing, itching, headaches, and coughing. However, various compounds contained in alcoholic beverages, such histamine and sulphites, which induce hay fever symptoms, are what actually effect your allergies, not alcohol itself.

He does point out, though, that there isn’t enough proof to say that drinking alcohol is associated with worsening hay fever symptoms.

How can I treat my hay fever symptoms?

You can take drugs to treat your hay fever symptoms if you have them.

For the treatment of typical hay fever symptoms, Dr. Sanjay Mehta of The London General Practice suggests non-sedating antihistamines, many of which are sold without a prescription.

He adds that nasal antihistamine sprays are another option with a quicker beginning of effect, although they would need a prescription from your doctor.

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However, he advises a common nasal steroid spray that “may be used as a substitute or in addition to antihistamines” for more severe or chronic symptoms.

These are also available without a prescription and start working about six hours after the initial dose, but the full impact might not be felt for up to two weeks.

Dr. Powles advises taking a few steps to prevent pollen out of your home in addition to prescription drugs.

In order to keep it out, he advises closing the windows and doors. He also advises taking a shower right away after getting home from the outside.

“Pollen can stick to your hair and clothing, but once you’re back inside, a fast shower and routine laundry can help to reduce the quantity of pollen around you. Wherever you can, dry your clothing indoors because hanging them outside to dry will once more cover them in pollen, the man advises.

To prevent pollen from getting on your face, he also advises covering it.

“Everyone who has hay fever is aware that symptoms might impact their eyes and nose. To prevent pollen interaction, using wraparound sunglasses and applying a barrier balm like petroleum jelly to the area surrounding your nostrils can be useful.