Around 80% of people who have asthma also suffer from a pollen allergy, meaning that
pollen can trigger their asthma symptoms.
If you’re a member of this vast group of people who have both asthma and hay fever, it’s
super-important that you treat your hay fever. After all, studies have found that you can
greatly reduce your risk of being hospitalised by an asthma attack if you treat both your
hay fever and your asthma.
How Is Hay Fever Diagnosed?
If there’s a chance you have hay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis), your doctor should
learn about the environment you live and work in, check your asthma control, check for
allergies, do a physical examination and consider your symptoms.
You should give your doctor important information, such as…
❖ When you first noticed your symptoms and whether they’ve worsened or improved;
❖ If there are any places or items that seem to make your symptoms better or worse;
❖ If you’ve found that any medicines (prescription or over-the-counter) have helped;
❖ If you have any known allergic conditions (such as asthma due to allergies, skin
allergies, etc) and whether family members have allergies;
❖ Whether you usually have symptoms at particular times of the year.
Once they have this information, your doctor may decide to…
❖ Use a spirometer to measure how your lungs are working (if you generally use a peak
flow meter to test your own lungs you should bring these results);
❖ Give you a nasal spray to try for a few weeks;
❖ Provide a reference to an ear, nose and throat surgeon or an allergy specialist;
❖ Suggest allergy tests – blood or skin-prick tests (other allergy tests such as cytotoxic
food testing, Vega testing, reflexology, hair analysis, pulse testing and kinesiology are not
appropriate here and should not be used).
If you are exhibiting atypical symptoms such as polyps in the nose, reduced sense of smell,
one nostril that’s blocked or bleeding, persistent cough, loss of hearing or long-term sinus
issues, a specialist may be necessary.
Common Hay Fever Treatments
The severity of your symptoms will determine how your hay fever is treated. Some
medications are only available on prescriptions, while others can be bought in your local
pharmacy. Various medicines exist. Please consult your pharmacist or doctor about the
medicines best suited to you.
Steroid Nasal Sprays
Don’t let the name put you off! Steroid nasal sprays only contain a tiny dose of steroid, and
this targets the areas that need it rather than the whole body. These are designed to
reduce the inflammation in the lining of your nose. Some will also help relieve watering
eyes. If you plan on using one of these, you should start at least a week before pollen
season is due to start. While many other hay fever treatments kick in straight away, these
can take a few days to really take effect.
These can help with your sneezing, watery eyes, itchiness and runny nose. They’re available
in liquid form, nasal sprays and tablets. Newer antihistamines are designed so as not to
make users drowsy. However, some types can make you drowsy, so you should try to take
them before bed.
Non-drowsy antihistamines are popular with those who only have mild or occasional
symptoms, and those who are selecting medication for their children.
Decongestant Nasal Sprays
If you have a blocked nose, these are the way to go! If they don’t work for you, it’s time to
consult your GP. Make sure you never use a decongestant nasal spray for more than a few
days at a time.
Avoid Pollen Where Possible
This isn’t always the most appealing option, but if you need to avoid pollen you can do so
by staying indoors with all windows closed on days with a high pollen count. Don’t walk in
grassy areas if you’re allergic to them, and DEFINITELY don’t try to mow the lawn!
Treat It Yourself
You can’t really “prevent” hay fever, and we’re yet to discover a cure. There are, however,
some things you can do to reduce your symptoms and their impact on your asthma.
❏ DO trap pollen by putting Vaseline around your nostrils.
❏ DON’T keep fresh flowers in your house.
❏ DO keep pollen out of your eyes by wearing wraparound sunglasses.
❏ DON’T worsen your symptoms by smoking or spending time around smoke.
❏ DO wash pollen off after you’ve been outside by showering and changing your
❏ DON’T catch pollen in your clothes by drying them outside.
❏ DO dust with a damp cloth and hoover your house often.
❏ DON’T let your pets indoors if you can avoid it – they’ll be covered in pollen!
❏ DO invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and fit pollen filters on the air vents
in your car.
Find more information on hay fever from Allergy UK.
Put the Kettle On!
Green tea is not only healthy and delicious, it can also be a great secret weapon for people
with hay fever and asthma. Some studies have found that it can work as an antihistamine
and relieve your symptoms, at least for a while! Green tea can also be helpful to people
with asthma outside of hay fever season. It contains caffeine which, according to a study in
the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews published in January 2010, can improve
airway function for up to four hours.
Camomile is also a great tea to go for, with the used teabags doubling as an effective cold
compress to soothe your swollen eyes.
For more information about asthma, check out Need2Know’s Essential Guide to
Asthma which discusses the diagnosis and symptoms of asthma and looks at how it
affects all age groups. Understanding asthma is the key to gaining control of its
symptoms and enjoying your life more fully, whatever the pollen count!