Many people would be forgiven for thinking that the hayfever season is limited to the mid-summer and is solely as a result of grass pollinating. It is however a good deal more complicated than that. Pollen that can cause hayfever is derived from many sources and affect different people in different ways.
The main pollens that cause hayfever/seasonal allergic rhinitis fall into the following categories: grasses, trees and herbaceous plants, spore producing plants and mould. Each year the pollen and spore seasons follow a similar pattern.
If you find that you have symptoms at certain times of the year it could be due to pollen or spores that only appear at that time for example grass pollen is at most prevalent during May and June – so if you suffer symptoms at that time, chances are you are allergic to grass pollen.
The calendar below gives you up to date information based on the pollen monitoring records over recent years from the sites of the National Pollen and Aerobiological Research Unit.
Both seasonal allergic rhinitis (hayfever) and year around allergic rhinitis (perennial) produce essentially the same symptoms, but with different severities.
The symptoms of hayfever come from a localised allergic reaction in the nose, throat and eyes. Once an allergy to a particular pollen has been established (see ‘How an allergic reaction develops’ for further information), any further contact with it will stimulate the immune system to release histamine and other chemicals. These then act as a trigger for common ‘hayfever’ symptoms such as…
- A runny nose
- A stuffy nose (congestion)
- Itching of the eyes, nose, and back of the throat
- Itching, watery and inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
- A dark appearance under the eyes due to inflammation in the sinuses
- Loss of sense of smell and taste
- Asthma may become worse (Seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional if symptoms are persistent or become more severe).
On top of all these symptoms, hayfever sufferers may feel miserable, irritable and listless and many people find their ability to work, drive and enjoy a social life is impaired.3
People with allergies are often advised to avoid the provoking allergen, although it is controversial as to whether this should be recommended as a matter of course in the instance of hayfever, as most sufferers can lead a normal life using the correct medication without undue lifestyle restrictions. But people with more persistent symptoms may benefit from following these simple steps…
- Keep your windows closed in the early morning and late afternoon, when the pollen tends to rise
- During the pollen season drive with your car windows shut and fit an effective pollen filter
- Avoid mowing the lawn
- Wear sunglasses to help prevent eye irritation
- Shower and change when you get home as pollen can cling to your clothing and hair
- Dry your washing indoors
- Choose plants that are insect pollinated
- Avoid things that will make your symptoms worse, such as smoke and other forms of air pollution
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis/hayfever can impair sleep and can consequently affect a child’s general learning, memory and school performance. This can be further impaired by the use of sedating anti-histamines (e.g. chlorphenamine), opposed to a non-sedating antihistamine for children.4
It is no wonder therefore that parents are often anxious about how well their child will cope, especially as the most important end of year exams often fall right in the middle of the pollen season!
It may help to remember that allergic rhinitis/hayfever affects as many as 40% of children and therefore teachers will most likely understand the condition and its related problems.5
However, the following may help…
- Ensure that the school has all the relevant information regarding the medical condition
- Make sure your child takes their medication regularly and as recommended
- If your child is sitting examinations and is troubled by hayfever, ask the school or college to inform the examining board
- Follow the advice on pollen avoidance
- Check pollen forecasts regularly
The calendar shows the general pattern of allergenic pollen release. The exact timing and severity of pollen and spore seasons will vary from year to year depending on the weather, and also regionally depending on geographical location.
- https://seeds.ca/pollination/pollen-and-flowers/pollen (para 6)
- http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=2441 [paragraph 10, summer cold]
- BMA; Title: Understanding allergies; Publication year:2006;Publisher: family doctor Publication; author: Dr Joanne Clough; Page 34/35.
- BMA; Title: Understanding allergies; Publication year:2006;Publisher: family doctor Publication; author: Dr Joanne Clough; Page 106&107.