Hay fever season is upon us, and if you suffer from this seasonal allergy, soon, if you’re not already, you’ll be sneezing every minute and wanting to itch your eyes every second. Sales of antihistamine and nasal spray will soar and we’ll all be annoyed at ourselves for wanting spring to arrive. Think you know everything there is to know about hay fever? We’ve put together 10 facts about hay fever, some of which might surprise you.
We use the term hay fever to refer to any allergy towards pollen. However, different types of pollen affect different people, and at different times of the year. The three main types are:
Tree pollen tends to kick off the season in early to late spring, with grass pollen affecting those who suffer in the height of summer, and weed pollen carrying on into early autumn in some areas.
That’s 60 million people in the US, and about 16 million in the UK. That’s a lot of sneezing.
Symptoms of hay fever are most commonly developed in childhood and adolescence, and they tend to lessen in severity with age. However, contrary to popular belief, hay fever can strike at any age, in anyone. There is a lot of conflicting research and theories on the reasons for adults developing hay fever. The most common of these theories is that the allergy is always apparent in the sufferer throughout childhood, but something sets it off in later life.
If parents suffer from allergies in general, their children are more likely to suffer from hay fever and other allergies.
In the UK, grass pollen is the hardest hitting type, with 95% of hay fever sufferers having allergic reactions to grass pollen. However, climates in most of the United States mean grass pollen is considerably lower, and it is the tree pollen, particularly ash, cedar and oak trees, that affect people the most.
Research has shown that starting your antihistamine medication early can actually lessen the symptoms of hay fever when they eventually hit. This pre-emptive method of fighting off the allergies can help you feel better, and even come off the medication sooner, than if you start when symptoms begin to show.
Weather forecasts often include a pollen count in their morning broadcast during peak season, and it is always available somewhere online. If you live in the UK, the MET office release a pollen count daily and in the US there is a handy map based tool for finding your local area’s pollen count.
Get in the habit of checking it daily so you can start your day armed with all the nasal spray you might need.
Atopy is a term to describe the genetic tendency to develop allergies. These three allergies are all under the umbrella of atopy, so if you have hay fever, you’re more likely to get eczema or asthma and vice versa.
Pollen allergies are from airborne pollen particles, which have already blown away from the plant responsible. However, the pollen in a lot of flowers is coated and sticky, so the likelihood of it becoming airborne is a lot less. That’s why grass and trees are the more likely culprits.
The symptoms themselves do not come from the pollen, they come from you. Histamine is a chemical reaction produced by the body when it mistakenly thinks the immune system is under threat. When pollen enters the body of an allergy sufferer, it triggers the production of histamine, which then creates an inflammation of the nose and throat, along with all other symptoms.
Jason is the CEO and Co-founder of Isabel. Prior to co-founding Isabel, Jason spent 12 years working in finance and investment banking across Europe. His daughter, Isabel, fell seriously ill following a misdiagnosis in 1999 and this experience inspired Jason to abandon his city career and create Isabel Healthcare Ltd.