Allergic rhinitis – more commonly known as hay fever – is an allergy that affects the nose.
While the majority of people associate hay fever with spring, when airborne pollens from grasses are prevalent, the condition can affect sufferers at any time of the year.
When this occurs it is known as perennial allergic rhinitis, which is usually caused by the presence of allergens around the home including dust mites, moulds or animal hair or fur or occupational allergens.
Hay fever is a very common condition with worldwide incidence estimated at between 10-20 per cent of the population in developed countries. This rate of incidence is confirmed in Australia with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare finding that in 2014-15, one in five, or 20 per cent, of Australians suffered from allergic rhinitis. That’s nearly 4.5 million people.
In the 2014-15 period, the ACT had the highest rate of hay fever in Australia at 26 per cent, followed by Tasmania with 23 per cent. The lowest rates were in NT (12 per cent) and Queensland (17 per cent).
It is important not to confuse hay fever with other conditions including: polyps, infections, hormonal imbalance, use of physical agents (eg. cold, heat, sunlight, dampness and dryness), anatomical anomalies tumours, granulomas, and the use of some medicines. Your community pharmacist can help you determine if it is hay fever you need to treat.
Signs and symptoms of hay fever can include:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy ears, nose and throat
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
The type and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Your pharmacist can help you choose the best medicine for your symptoms. This may be a nasal spray, eye drop or antihistamine tablets.
Some of these medications should not be taken with other medications. Others can cause drowsiness which may be dangerous if you’re driving or operating machinery, and some cannot be taken if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Community pharmacists are increasingly called upon to help patients treat and manage their hay fever.
Your pharmacist can talk to you about how best to manage your hay fever. It is always recommended to minimise exposure to the allergen that triggers your hay fever.
The type and timing of medicines is also important to reduce the severity of symptoms and treat them effectively.