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Are you itching for a hay fever cure? With a heatwave predicted for the next fortnight, most of us will be rubbing our hands together at the thought of a bit of sunshine. But for one in every four people, the warmer temperatures bring the so-called 'curse of the summer' with snotty noses, itchy eyes and constant sneezing fits. Rachel Mainwaring finds out how to survive hay fever.

IF the summer sunshine leaves you hiding in the house without a single thought for mowing the lawn, you're probably one of the 15 to 20% of us that suffers from hay fever.

Otherwise known as season allergic rhinitis, it is an all too common condition that can become the bane of many people's summers. With symptoms similar to the common cold, including itchy watery eyes, runny noses and regular sneezing fits, it can have a huge effect on your stress levels and lifestyle.

Many sufferers complain of headaches, blocked sensations in their ears, wheezing and even burning in the throat as well as exhaustion and an itching around the nose and mouth, largely due to high levels of grass or hay pollen during the summer months.

And Professor Ron Eccles, from Cardiff's Common Cold Centre, has warned that those who do suffer from the annual bout of sneezes and lethargy need to start dealing with the allergy now, before the symptoms really kick in as June approaches.

He said: "I'm not able to predict whether we will get a rise in hay fever sufferers this summer but it's usually this time of year, when lots of students are sitting down to GCSEs and A-level exams, that hay fever is at its worst.

"With one in four people now suffering it's a big problem and I would advise anyone who is a regular sufferer to start dealing with it right away, before the symptoms get really bad.

Ron "It's a bit like dampening the grass early to prevent a grass fire. If you know you suffer badly from hay fever, start using an intranasal steroid spray and keep using it, even if you don't experience problems every day. They work best when you start using them a couple of weeks before your symptoms usually begin.

"For mild sufferers, take anti-histamines to ward off the problems as early as possible.

You can usually tell the difference between a common cold and hay fever, as the itchy feeling in your eyes and palate are strong indications that it's hay fever."

Most hay fever treatments are now available from your Eccles GP or over-thecounter at the pharmacist and Prof Eccles said it's crucial to act fast to get the most benefit from the various treatments available.

But he said it's not just adults who suffer. Children from as young as two can also display the signs of hay fever and he recommends speaking to health professionals about how best to treat it.

He said: "Our immune systems and genetics are predisposed to hay fever, which is why it can run in families. Of course, because young children have almost a dozen colds each year, it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference but red, watery eyes, and itching, certainly indicates hay fever. Speaking to your GP or pharmacist will help you find the best way of treating it.

"In terms of trying to avoid it, I usually tell people to head to the coast in order to avoid grassy areas but if the wind is blowing from England, it will bring pollen with it and so there's no real escape from it I'm afraid.

"But, if you act now, you could make it far more comfortable when the pollen count gets very high during the summer months."

Writer Rachael Phillips, above, from Cardiff, started suffering from hay fever as a teenager, which made exam time incredibly difficult.

The 28-year-old said: "When I was about 15 I started noticing it was really quite bad. It always sticks in my mind because I had terrible problems when doing my GSCEs, as they would leave the doors open in the gym hall (where we did our exams). I suffered from watery eyes and the feeling that I needed to constantly cough from a scratchy, itchy throat.

"Exam time was an absolute nightmare. I spent my entire maths exam coughing and sniffling which I am sure didn't impressed fellow pupils."

Hay fever is a real curse to her summers. "I don't tend to go on holiday in the summer so that way it doesn't get to ruin my holidays, but when it comes to walking the dog I do think about where I go first. I find that for me, symptoms ease at night. I don't tend to have my windows open at night because of how it makes me feel in the morning, which is a nightmare when it's warm but it's worth it to not wake up feeling unwell."

Rachael, who runs website www.thechicofit.com, finds natural remedies are the best.

"I've tried the usual over the counter hay fever medication that I don't find particularly effective. I do find that Sudafed or Beechams cold and flu tablets ease it slightly but I only take that if I'm really suffering. I've also tried a few natural remedies and I'm currently looking in to other natural alternatives to drugs. I've heard local honey helps."

HELPING THE KIDS COPE HAY fever is painful enough for adults who understand the allergy, but it can be doubly difficult for kids, particularly when they experience symptoms during school hours. According to www.hayfeverexpert.co.uk, coping skills are important for kids to learn because it teaches them to take an active role in their allergy management and also ensures that they can cope during school hours, when a parent is not present.

If your child suffers from hay fever, it's important that teachers and relevant administrators at the school are made aware of it. This will ensure that your child receives the appropriate medications as needed and also has a support network during school hours. After all, a hug from a teacher and kind words of support for your child's discomfort can make a real difference.

It's also important that your child doesn't feel isolated and 'different' from other children who don't suffer from hay fever. Ideally, your child's school will take an approach that involves educating everyone at school on allergies. For children, myths and confusion over what hay fever is and how it affects your child can be hurtful.

A recent study has suggested that hay fever medications can cause students to drop down a grade in school. This problem is unfortunately due to the sedating effects of several hay fever drugs, which impact memory and cognition. If possible, you should speak to your child's doctor about options for non-sedating hay fever medications.

Lunch and snack breaks can be the best part of your child's day at school. It's a chance to take a break from indoor classes and have some fun outside. For children with hay fever, however, this time outside can make their symptoms worse. Instead of being a source of pleasure, your child may begin to dread the outdoors.

Make sure that your child has the appropriate medications for days when the pollen counts are high; and keep a good line of communication open with your child's teachers, so that medications can be safely administered as they are needed.

HOW CAN WE PREVENT IT? NHS Wales Direct say it is very difficult to completely avoid pollen, but you should be able to ease the severity of your hay fever symptoms by taking sensible precautions.

Here are their top tips to a more comfortable summer: 1. Keep windows and doors shut in the house, try drawing the curtains to keep out the sun and keep the temperature down.

2. Get someone else to cut the grass and avoid playing or walking in grassy areas, and camping. 3. Change your clothes and take a shower after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body.

4. Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you are outdoors. 5. Keep car windows closed, and consider buying a pollen filter for the air vents in your car. 6. Keep fresh flowers out of the house, and vacuum (ideally using a machine with a HEPA filter) and damp dust regularly.

7. Do not smoke or let anyone who smokes in your house. Breathing in other people's smoke irritates the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways, which can make symptoms worse.

8. Keep pets out of the house in hay fever season; if your pet comes indoors, wash it regularly to remove pollen from fur. 9. Rub Vaseline around the edges of your nostrils to stop pollen entering the nasal passages. 10. Manage symptoms by using an effective over-the-counter treatment, or consult your GP for advice.

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Ron Eccles
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 21, 2011
Words:1424
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