While warmer weather and new buds herald springtime for New Zealanders, for many people they are merely warnings that the ?sneezer?s season? has arrived.
From September on, the symptoms of itchy eyes and a runny nose are all too common for people who suffer from hayfever (allergic rhinitis).
"It has been estimated that up to 600,000 New Zealanders get hayfever in spring which can last through the summer months into February," say Self Care Pharmacists.
Hayfever is an allergic reaction and is the body?s way of responding to foreign substances known as ?allergens?. In spring these allergens are commonly pollen from flowers, grass, trees and weeds.
When an allergen enters the body and comes into contact with special cells called mast cells, it causes various chemicals to be released. One of these chemicals is histamine. When too much histamine is released symptoms like watery, itchy, red eyes and a runny nose develop.
Sometimes it is easy to confuse hayfever with a cold. The symptoms can be very similar but with hayfever the mucus from the nose is more watery. Also, a cold will usually last seven to ten days, whereas allergies tend to be more long term and recur whenever you are exposed to the substance that caused it.
"Not everyone prone to allergies is allergic to pollen," say Self Care Pharmacists. "Many people also suffer reactions all year round because they are allergic to dust, animal dander eg dog or cat hairs, chemical fumes, temperature changes and the ever common house dust mite."
Dust mites are particularly difficult to avoid. We live everyday with hundreds of thousands of them and they are everywhere - on dead skin cells, thriving in the warm moist environment of our cushions and carpets, blankets, mattresses and pillows.
People tend to inherit the tendency to develop allergies.
"We can?t do much to change the way we are made, but people who get hayfever can take some self care measures to minimise their contact with allergens," say Self Care Pharmacists.
The following are some measures you can take to avoid the symptoms of hayfever:
- wear a mask while cleaning around the house
- dust with a damp cloth not a feather duster
- wash sheets and pillow cases in hot water
- avoid woollen underlays
- cover mattresses and pillows with special mite-proof fabric.
If you can not completely avoid trigger factors that cause your allergy, Self Care Pharmacists recommend antihistamine medicines. These are very effective and, if taken early enough, will help prevent the symptoms of hayfever.
Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness and you should avoid driving a vehicle or operating machinery if you feel drowsy with these medicines. There are antihistamines available which do not cause drowsiness.
Self Care Pharmacists warn that some antihistamines can interact with other medicines and advise people to check with their pharmacist or doctor before taking them. You should also tell your pharmacist or doctor if you are pregnant or suffer from any medical condition such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes before taking antihistamines.
Some people who suffer from symptoms of hayfever all year round may be given prescription medicines by their doctor. Decongestant nose drops can also be used to relieve a blocked nose.
If you have some questions or need treatments for hayfever please contact us.
These products may be useful for your condition:
Beconase Nasal Spray
Flixonase Nasal Spray