Hay Fever: Some eye-watering facts
According to the latest research from Allergy UK, hay fever affects almost half of the British population. That’s an awful lot of people sneezing, suffering from itchy eyes, headaches, shortness of breath or constantly feeling tired. As allergies affect everybody differently, it can be any, or all these symptoms!
As you are probably painfully aware, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen from grass, trees and/or weeds. Especially grass pollen (64%). When this fine powder from plants comes into contact with your mouth, nose, eyes or throat, that’s when the trouble starts. Your immune system overreacts, seeing these particles as dastardly foreign invaders and the rest you know.
Many people (56%) were worried and anxious, that others would mistake their symptoms for COVID. Unsure whether their cough was because of the virus or pollen. Which, of course, made working from home much easier than working in the office, for hay fever sufferers. Some even found that staying at home relieved their allergy. And wearing a mask outside too, seemed to help a lot. However, the flipside: almost 50% of the survey group said that they spent less time exercising outside because of their hay fever.
Hay fever is a more serious issue than some people imagine, which can really affect your school or work performance. Try studying or feeling productive when you’re sneezing every thirty seconds. Or your eyes are constantly watering. In the survey, 46% of workers struggled with concentration and 35% felt that it lowered their productivity. While for students, 41% had problems with their attention span and 30% felt embarrassed is social situations. Apart from work and studying, sleep was also something to lose sleep about. 64% of people had trouble with sleeping because of their allergy.
It’s not as if hay fever is over in a few days either. Many people have to suffer from March all the way to September. May to July being the most hellish months. As the research shows, 82% experience these symptoms every single year. Most, from three to six days every single week. And yet, very few people (just 21%) speak to a healthcare professional about their allergy. Mostly explained by the fact that generally hay fever is more of an irritation than a serious issue.
Hay fever is certainly not a taboo subject. With family and friends, 75% of the survey group were comfortable talking about their symptoms. Though, that drops to 62% when discussing it with the boss at work.
One of the most surprising findings from the research, was that more than a third of hay fever sufferers have developed the symptoms in the past five years. It seems that our bodies are becoming more sensitive to pollen. Also surprising, in most cases, parents notice that their children start developing hay fever around the age of six. Whereas for adults, it’s around eighteen.
What do hay fever sufferers do to feel more comfortable? Mostly, it’s the simple things. For example, keeping the windows shut to keep out the pollen. Looking at the pollen count and there’s a good place for that! https://www.kleenex.co.uk/pollen-count where you can find the pollen count for your area. This helps you avoid the peak pollen times and can really alleviate your allergy.
A typical stoic British answer to what would you recommend to other hay fever sufferers: “accept it, and power through”. In other words: “keep calm and carry on”. Perhaps not the most scientific approach. Better, and more practical advice, take action to relieve your symptoms. For example, wear a face mask when you’re mowing the grass, or working outside. Keep windows closed to avoid pollen entering your home. On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair in the evening, and change your clothes. This removes all the pollen that you have picked up during the day. Often, the best treatment is a daily dose of antihistamines, which will ease your symptoms. Easily available in your local pharmacy as tablets, solutions and nasal sprays.
According to research, more people suffer from hay fever than ever before. The reasons are quite surprising. The last year, we’ve spent more time indoors because of you know what, limiting our exposure to pollen. When you go outside, your reaction to the pollen is more extreme. It seems that we build up a certain level of immunity with some exposure to pollen.
Also, with good intentions, we all live in more clean environments. For our children, that means less exposure to dirt and bacteria, which could be impeding the development of their immune system. Research has shown that children have higher rates of hay fever when they live in very clean environments. Hard to believe, but true.