Your guide to surviving hay fever season

Spring has sprung and it’s bursting with birds, bees and flowers – but it also means plenty of pollen and allergens. These expert tips will help keep your hay fever under control.

If you suffer from hay fever, you’re not alone – about one in five Australians lives with the condition.

National Asthma Council strategic advisor Dr Lyn Roberts says September to December is when rye grass, pollen and other allergic material such as fungi or dust are in the air, triggering symptoms – especially for people with asthma.

“It can cause upper and lower airway inflammation and result in itchy watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, cough, sinus pain and congestion and frequent sore throats,” Dr Roberts says.

“But more concerning is that hay fever can lead to an increased risk of serious asthma flare-ups for the 2.78 million Australians with asthma.”

When do allergies start?

For some people, allergies are present most of their lives. Symptoms usually surface between the ages of four and six, with up to 30 per cent of Australian children impacted.

But Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia chief executive Maria Said warns hay fever can appear at any age.

“We have people who have never had it, who suddenly have a terrible season and then continue to have terrible hay fever that needs to be managed with several combinations of medications,” she says.

Maria says while people often self-treat, it is worth seeing a GP for advice about preventative measures.

Get smart about the pollen count

One of the easiest hay fever preventatives, says Dr Roberts, is to check the pollen count.

There are a range of online sites that forecast the risk of pollen in the atmosphere.

On high-pollen days, Dr Roberts recommends closing the windows, recirculating the air in the car and avoiding hanging clothes on the line to reduce the chance of contamination.

Hay fever treatment options

Hay fever cannot be completely cured, but there are options when it comes to managing symptoms.

1.     Immunotherapy

Allergen immunotherapy is a way to teach the immune system how to be less sensitive to an allergen – through injections, tablets or drops under the tongue.

The treatment can take months to become effective and takes years to give long-term relief. It’s not a silver bullet, but it can reduce symptoms, reliance on medication and really improve quality of life, according to Maria.

She recommends speaking to your doctor for a referral to see a clinical allergy immunology specialist.

2.     Medication

The most common hay fever and allergy medications are antihistamines and decongestants, but these are not to be taken long-term.

Anyone suffering from hay fever may also want to ask their doctor about nasal corticosteroids and antihistamine sprays.

3.     Diffusers

This natural alternative does not stop allergies, but research has found some products can soothe symptoms for some people.

Commonly used oils include eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree and frankincense.

“It’s really important for people to not just look at something like that on face value and to look for the evidence it works,” says Maria.

Written by Alex White.