Itchy, watery eyes? Sniffly nose? Scratchy throat?
Congratulations, friend: you have hay fever. And even if you don’t, you probably will soon – experts are warning this could be the worst season of hay fever we’ve seen in years.
Ed Newbigin, who is Associate Professor of Botany at Melbourne University, told The Herald Sun that wet weather at the start of Spring means a cursed summer of hay fever ahead.
“It’s going to be a bad season, particularly compared to the last few seasons,” he predicted.
Australia had its seventh wettest July on record this year, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. This leads to increased grass growth and more pollen in the air, particularly in South East Australia. Our noses are itching just thinking about it.
Asthma and hay fever sufferers have therefore been warned to take extra precautions, stock up antihistamine medication and always carry an inhaler in case of breathing difficulties.
So what causes hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to dust, pollen, and other microscopic particles becoming trapped in the tiny hairs of your nasal passages. The immune system then flares up and causes sneezing, a runny or stuffy nose, itchy ears, nose and throat, red, itchy or watery eyes, and even headaches.
How can I control my hay fever?
Better Health Victoria suggest the following treatments for managing symptoms this horror hay fever season:
1. Intranasal corticosteroid sprays.
“These nasal sprays contain very low-dose steroids and are one of the most effective treatments for allergic rhinitis,” it says on Better Health Victoria’s website, adding that they need to be used regularly to be effective.
2. Non-sedating antihistamine medications.
These sprays will work to stop sneezing and itching, but not a heavily blocked or running nose. “Ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice if you are breastfeeding, as some medications can cause breastfed babies to become irritable and restless.” (Post continues after gallery.)
3. Eye drops.
The hay fever sufferer’s best friend to relieve itchy, swollen or runny eyes. But remember: there are hundreds of different types, so ask your pharmacist for help.
Most common nutrient deficiencies for women. (Post continues after video)
4. Decongestant nasal sprays.
While these are super helpful, you should always check in with your doctor first before trying a medication. Particularly if you’re pregnant or have high blood pressure.
5. Allergen immunotherapy.
Allergen immunotherapy is when a person is deliberately exposed to increasing amounts of an allergen to improve tolerance and reduce symptoms. “This therapy may help hay fever and some cases of asthma, but does not help food allergy. It should only be conducted under medical supervision, as exposure to allergens can be dangerous and potentially life threatening. Seek advice from your doctor.”
How bad can it get?
While most consider hay fever to be little more than an annoyance, for some sufferers it can feel like a real illness. According to Dr Newbigin, approximately one in eight Australians suffer from hayfever,
An Australian survey by MEDA Pharmaceuticals, found that 60 per cent of respondents said their hay fever interfered with their sleeping, with another 25 per cent saying it was affecting their sex life. Yes, hay fever really can be more than just an itchy nose, folks.
What about the local honey solution?
In recent years, many hay fever sufferers have taken to ingesting a tablespoon of locally made honey to treat their hay fever. Companies like Melbourne Rooftop Honey reckon that doing so improves your tolerance to local pollens and therefore reduces symptoms. While there's no solid medical evidence backing this up, it could be worth a try.
If you're extremely sensitive during hay fever season, keep your eye out for local pollen counts. You can check out a pollen count forecast in your local paper, or online at a variety of sites. If the pollen count is going to be high due to hot and windy weather, try and stay indoors.
Good luck this hay fever season, guys. May your nose stay safe from the evil pollen all summer long!