15 million of us in the UK suffer from hayfever. Hayfever is a common problem usually encountered in the spring and early summer. It is part of the group of health conditions known as allergic rhinitis – allergies to airborne substances which lead to inflammation in the lining of the nose, throat and eyes. In the mean, hayfever refers to an allergy to pollen.
People prone to the condition tend to develop the problem during their teenage years and it can linger well into late adulthood. Hayfever is associated with eczema and asthma. It can also run in families.
What is Hayfever?
Hayfever is caused by an abnormal (or allergic) reaction of the body to pollen coming into contact with the nose, eyes or throat. The body’s immune system reacts to this usually ‘harmless’ substance as it thinks that, for some reason, it is ‘harmful’ – as if the body were being attacked by a potent virus.
As the immune system over-reacts, it releases large amounts of a chemical known as histamine. This causes itching, inflammation and irritation in the local tissue.
Pollen causing hayfever can come from grass, trees or flowers. Pollen levels increase dramatically in spring as Nature comes to life.
Pollen levels in the UK are very much dependent on the weather. A week of dull rainy weather followed by a few days of warm sunshine, can drive pollen levels sky high – not good news for those with hayfever!
When severe, hayfever can give rise to a general feeling of being unwell as the immune system sets off such a strong reaction affecting the whole body, that one has to take to one’s bed – this is said to explain the ‘fever’ bit of hayfever.
In some, high pollen levels can also trigger asthma.
- Itchy or runny nose
- Irritation at the back of the throat
- Itchy or runny eyes
- Blocked nose
- Dry cough