A new survey by the Asthma Society of Ireland and ALK has revealed that 30% of those suffering from hayfever in Ireland have never spoken to a healthcare professional about how to relieve symptoms.
There are over 304.000 people living with asthma and hayfever in Ireland, symptoms of which are heightened in the summertime due to high pollen counts.
“Hayfever is a blanket term used to describe seasonal allergies, often stemming from pollen in the air. It is important to clarify that it is not related to hay and fever is not actually an associated symptom. Usual symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes,” says Ruth Morrow, a respiratory nurse specialist at the Asthma Society of Ireland.
“If untreated, it can lead to nasal congestion, postnasal drip, coughing, lower respiratory problems, sore throat, headache, decreased sense of smell, ear or sinus infection, and fatigue.”
Of those surveyed in the new study, sneezing, runny nose, and burning eyes were among the most common symptoms experienced, while the most common allergies named were pollen, dust mites, and animal hair.
Over 92% of respondents said that they commonly experience sneezing fits when exposed to such allergies, while 88% suffer from a stuffy nose and 74% have to deal with burning and itchy eyes.
Almost eight in ten reported experiencing fatigue associated with allergies, which can be caused by certain antihistamines. Yet of those surveyed, over one in three had not sought professional advice about managing symptoms.
Dr Marcus Butler, a respiratory consultant at St Vincent's University Hospital and medical director at the Asthma Society of Ireland, says that the finding was “concerning” for the asthma population in Ireland.
“While the symptoms are frustrating for many, unmanaged hayfever or allergies can cause asthma symptoms to heighten and escalate into an asthma attack,” Dr Butler says.
“An asthma attack is a respiratory emergency that should be taken seriously by patients and carers. Allergies and hayfever with asthma can be fatal. At least one person dies every week as a result of asthma.”
Over half of the survey’s respondents had experienced an asthma attack in the past year, with 14% reporting an attack in the four weeks before the research was carried out.
“Hayfever management is crucial in preventing an asthma attack. We really encourage patients to kickstart an improvement of their hayfever symptoms and better asthma control by flagging these symptoms with their GP,” says Dr Butler.
Those looking to speak to an experienced respiratory nurse about a hayfever management plan can call the Asthma Adviceline service on 1800 44 54 64.
There is also a pollen tracker, supported by ALK, on asthma.ie which highlights when periods of high pollen or bad weather are coming up.
The Asthma Society recommends the following 10 tips to follow to help relieve and prevent symptoms:
- Speak with a healthcare professional about taking medication to prevent or reduce symptoms. Don’t wait until you feel unwell. Early action is key.
- Keep windows closed at night time or when the pollen count is high.
- Monitor the pollen tracker and minimize time spent outdoors when the pollen count is high.
- Stay away from areas with freshly cut grass and don’t keep fresh flowers in the house.
- Apply vaseline around nostrils when outdoors in order to trap pollen.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to minimize levels of pollen irritating your eyes. Splash your eyes with cold water to help flush out pollen.
- Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes if you have been outdoors for an extended period of time.
- Exercise in the morning rather than the evening when there are higher rates of pollen falling.
- Avoid drying clothes outdoors and shake clothes outside before bringing them inside – particularly bedclothes.
- Minimise contact with pets that have been outdoors and are likely to carry pollen.