What is hay fever? What causes it?

Swiss herbal company A Vogel say that broadly, hay fever is caused by the immune system reacting to pollen from flowers, trees and grasses.

Hay fever season is often regarded as a spring and early summer problem but many South African sufferers can experience the allergy year-round with trees flowering at different times. September is however the month that hay fever really sets in with numerous trees, grasses and weeds blooming.

The greatest allergy causing plants are generally dandelions, trees like the acacia and the plane tree, and many different grass types including kikuyu, buffalo and bermuda. Maize is also a high pollen plant. Thankfully, plants with bright coloured flowers and sweet smells are less likely to cause hay fever as birds and insects carry the pollen away as opposed to it blowing in the wind.

What kind of symptoms can be experienced? Is it different to a cold?

The Mayo Clinic reports that hay fever symptoms can be confused with a cold. The major two differences are that hay fever is not caused by a virus and secondly, cold symptoms can include fever and body aches.

Symptoms of hay fever can include:

  • Itchy nose, eyes, mouth, throat or skin
  • Watering eyes
  • Sneezing and running nose

Symptoms can also develop into:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Puffiness under the eyes
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Asthma

If your symptoms are severe, a visit to your GP is advisable. Where your symptoms are manageable, your pharmacist can help you with over-the-counter medication.

How can one reduce the chances of suffering from hay fever?

  • Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are at their highest.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses to reduce the chances of pollen getting into your eyes.
  • Wear a pollen mask when mowing the lawn or working in the garden.
  • Don’t hang clothing, towels or sheets outside for pollen to cling to.
  • Try not to rub your eyes as this can increase any irritation.

Enjoy your holidays and make the most of this wonderful time of the year!




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