According to the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), hay fever is the most common chronic respiratory condition in the country, with about 15 per cent of the population suffering from it. It has been found to be most common in 25- to 44-year-olds, slightly more common in women and is seen more frequently in residents in the ACT and Western Australia, for reasons that are unknown.
The AIHW warn that the problem is only getting worse, with pharmacies revealing spending on medication such as nasal sprays and antihistamines has risen from $107.8 million to $226.8 million per year between 2001 and 2010.
What is hay fever?
Contrary to what you might think, hay fever can occur at any time, but is more prevalent in spring because of the higher pollen count in the air. When you inhale pollen and other potential irritants, they get filtered by the nose, which traps them in the hairs and mucus inside. Hay fever occurs when the person is allergic to some of these particles, and the body responds by attacking. This results in inflammation, runny eyes and nose, and congestion.
The good news is, no matter how severe your suffering, you don’t have to be resigned your fate of shunning garden party invitations. If you suspect you suffer from hay fever, contact your pharmacist or doctor for advice.
You can also take action by limiting your exposure to irritants. This can involve checking the pollen forecast and staying indoors on days when it’s high, staying away from pets and dust, replacing your garden’s plants with ones that are pollinated by birds and insects and smearing a thin layer of petroleum on the inside of your nose to prevent pollen from directly touching your nose’s lining.
While staying away from irritants is the most effective treatment, it’s not always the most practical. After all, who can realistically stay indoors all summer long? Thankfully, there’s a whole host of over the counter medication which can also help.
Doctors and pharmacists usually recommend a combination of corticosteroid nasal sprays to reduce inflammation and prevent blockages, antihistamines which can control sneezing and itching, decongestant nasal sprays and the regular application of eye drops to help wash out the any irritants, calm the itching and soothe any redness, leaving you looking and feeling better.