Hay fever affects many people and is caused by an allergy to pollen. But did you know people are usually allergic to certain pollens and not others which is why people suffer hay fever at different points in the year? We’ll take you through matching your symptoms to the different pollens so you can get on top of your hay fever.
Hay fever season in the UK is typically between late March and September. Each pollen has its own timing for release during this period. If you have symptoms in springtime, from early March to early May, tree pollens may be responsible, particularly birch. If you suffer in early summer, from May to July, grass pollen is more likely to blame. Weed pollen, from plants including nettle and dock, can cause symptoms from June to August.
Keeping a diary of symptoms spanning a couple of years might point towards a pattern, which can help identify a particular allergen. It’s a good idea to start antihistamines or a steroid nasal spray two weeks before you anticipate hay fever season starting, so once you have worked out the particular allergen you’re sensitive to, you can put a date in your diary for every year, to remind you when to start your hay fever relief. This will reduce your symptoms, and may even prevent them from coming.
Other allergens can trigger hay fever-like symptoms, and in this instance we call it allergic rhinitis. It’s a similar disease process with similar nasal and eye symptoms. This may be something to consider if you can’t see a pattern, or are suffering symptoms all year round. These can include house dust mite, animal dander and mould. Mould becomes more of a problem as moisture levels rise in the autumn. You may have these symptoms in response to environmental irritants, too, such as pollution or smoke, although this is an irritation rather than a true allergy.
If your symptoms fit with hay fever, and you have a clear idea of which allergen is causing your symptoms, then an allergy test may add no further benefit.
If the diagnosis or particular trigger is unclear, or treatments have been unsuccessful, then your doctor may consider a referral or you can test privately through YorkTest.
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