ITCHY eyes, constant sneezing and pounding headaches – all symptoms that can leave you feeling terrible.
They’re also all the classic signs of hay fever and those are only worsened by rising pollen levels.
A so-called pollen bomb has exploded across the UK this week – with levels reaching “very high” for most of the country.
Pretty bad news if you’re one of the estimated 10 million hay fever sufferers in Britain.
But is it a legitimate reason to take time off work?
For those lucky enough not to get hay fever, it may seem a ridiculous suggestion – nothing more than a pathetic excuse.
But in severe cases, the allergy can trigger deadly asthma attacks, with others left unable to drive and operate machinery due to their symptoms and the drugs they have to take to try to get some relief.
Allergy expert Dr Jean Emberlin previously told The Sun: “If symptoms are severe enough to impact your ability to do your job, certainly take a day off sick.
“Depending on what your job is, having very watery eyes or frequently sneezing may have a significant enough bearing on your ability to perform at the required level.
If symptoms are severe enough to impact your ability to do your job, certainly take a day off sick
Dr Jean Emberlin
“And in those cases, taking a day off work is a necessary measure.
“Another key point is that even if people aren’t off work as a result of their hay fever, their productivity may be adversely affected by their symptoms, meaning the impact of hay fever on work extends further than missed days.”
But she said, if you are forced to take time off work with hay fever, it is important to see a GP or pharmacist, to ensure you have the right medication.
And Dr Emberlin said it’s worth remembering hay fever symptoms, while they feel a lot like a nasty cold, aren’t contagious so there’s no need to worry about spreading the misery.
“If your job involves lots of driving and your hay fever is causing your eyes to stream and you to sneeze frequently, that is certainly bad enough not to go to work,” she added.
How to deal with hay fever
THERE are plenty of treatment options to alleviate symptoms for hay fever sufferers.
Specsavers clinical spokesperson, Dr Nigel Best says: “Hay fever sufferers who wear contact lenses may notice the vision through their lenses can appear smeary and eyes can generally feel uncomfortable.
“However, there are some things contact lens wearers can try to help reduce the irritation.
Use drops or ditch the contact lenses
“Contact lens-friendly eye drops can help to calm down any itchiness and wearing prescription glasses (particularly wraparound sunglasses) can prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
“Those suffering with hay fever could also try daily disposable lenses during the summer months.”
Dr Best also recommends: ‘While it’s not always possible, staying inside when pollen count is high will help to avoid irritation or showering and changing your clothes when you get home will also help to remove pollen from skin and hair.’
But, it is not just eyes which are affected, hay fever can also cause your ears to become itchy or inflamed.
Specsavers’ chief audiologist Gordon Harrison says: “Allergic reactions can cause the outer ear to itch or swell.
“The middle ear contains the Eustachian tube, which acts as a drainage tube, but when mucus clogs the middle ear it affects that drainage. This leads to a build-up in pressure, which can cause discomfort, popping in the ears or earache.
“To avoid irritation, try putting Vaseline around the nose to trap pollen, vacuum and dust regularly or you can try over the counter pain relief.
Shower and change clothes often
Showering and changing after being outside will help remove pollen and antihistamines decongestants can help relieve symptoms.
Hay fever can be very debilitating for sufferers, interfering with all aspects of work, family and your social life.
For teenagers at this time of the year, it can impact on their performance in exams or at sporting events.
And it can trigger asthma, in severe cases.
“If it’s not managed properly, hay fever can evolve into asthma,” Dr Emberlin said.
“This is obviously a serious condition, with significant health and lifestyle implications.”
Hay fever can also be bad news for the estimated 3.5million people with asthma in the UK – as pollen can trigger their asthma.
When pollen is in the air it can inflame people’s airways, triggering asthma symptoms
Dr Andy Whittamore
Dr Andy Whittamore, GP and Clinical Lead at Asthma UK warned that high levels of pollen in the air can “inflame” the airways and spark a potentially fatal attack.
He previously told The Sun: “When pollen is in the air it can inflame people’s airways, triggering asthma symptoms.
“Stormy weather can make it worse as it breaks the pollen into much smaller particles, which are then inhaled more deeply into the lungs.
“If you have asthma and are already noticing more symptoms because of hay fever, such as coughing, a tight chest or breathlessness, make sure you keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.”
Dr Whittamore advises taking hay fever medicines and using the preventer inhaler – usually brown – as prescribed.
One million new sufferers
Experts predict a million new people will develop an allergy to pollen this summer.
An estimated 26 per cent of adults in the UK reported suffering from hay fever in 2017, according to research.
Last year that figure increased to 31 per cent with a million new people buying hay fever medicines and remedies for the first time.
The rise is believed to be due to changes in our climate as weather conditions become more extreme clearly defined seasons are blurred.
Experts say a long winter followed by a short spring condensed the flowering season of trees and shrubs into a much shorter time period.
They say this causes a so-called “pollen bomb” as plants burst into life at the same time.
The concentration of many different types of pollen – which ordinarily would have occurred sequentially over a longer time – is thought to have triggered allergic reactions in people who had never suffered with hay fever before.
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