Hay Fever Season upon us – NHS Direct has developed online symptom checker

31 Mar 2011

With the hay fever season just starting, NHS Direct has developed a new online tool to help people tackle the symptoms that can make the spring and summer months miserable for sufferers.

The hay fever and minor allergies health and symptom checker is available at www.nhs.uk/nhsdirect. It works by asking the user a series of questions about themselves and the symptoms they are experiencing, such as the length of time they’ve had the symptoms and the severity of them.

Depending on the information provided, users may be given self-care advice, so that they can manage their symptoms at home, or the tool may suggest that further advice is sought from another health provider, such as a pharmacist, who can discuss over-the-counter medication options. A call-back from an NHS Direct nurse advisor is only a click away if a further assessment is recommended.

Hay fever affects two in every 10 people in the UK, and every year sufferers use tried and tested solutions to relieve their symptoms. It’s important to know when the pollen count is at its highest – usually early evenings – and try and avoid going out at these times. Sufferers can also take simple steps to prepare themselves when leaving the house, for example, by wearing wrap-around sunglasses to stop pollen getting into their eyes or using petroleum jelly on the inside of their nostrils to trap some of the pollen. There are also over-the-counter tablets, nasal sprays and eye drops that can be bought from a pharmacy, which, with the advice from a pharmacist, can reduce the severity of symptoms.

Long-time hay fever sufferers are likely to be all too aware of the well known advice; however NHS Direct has identified some of the hints and tips that people may not be familiar with, but which are equally as effective at relieving symptoms:

Have a happy holiday
Hay fever season falls at different times of the year in different countries. For example, the grass pollen season in Mediterranean countries finishes about five weeks before it does in the UK, so a good time to visit these countries is after the middle of July. There is also generally less pollen in coastal areas, so if you visit the seaside your hay fever symptoms should lessen. Mountainous areas may also be good places to visit as they contain fewer pollen-producing plants.

Run off the stress
Studies have found that stress and exercise levels have a clear link with the severity of symptoms. When stress levels drop, symptoms can become milder, and regular exercise can lessen the effects of hay fever. It’s important to choose exercise times wisely by avoiding being outside when the pollen count is high.

Eat, drink and be merry
It’s important to eat a varied, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, but be aware that some healthy foods, such as apples, tomatoes, stoned fruits, melons, bananas and celery, can make hay fever symptoms worse. Reducing the intake of alcohol during the hay fever season is also recommended. Alcohol can make you dehydrated and can make symptoms seem worse. It is also believed to make people more sensitive to pollen.

Clean up your act
Each individual pollen grain is small enough to require a magnifying glass to see, but just because it’s not visible doesn’t mean it’s not there. Hay fever sufferers are therefore advised to change their clothes and shower after being outdoors to wash off pollen. Clothes should be dried in an automatic dryer rather than hung outside where they can collect pollen again.

Anne Joshua, Associate Director of Pharmacy at NHS Direct, said:

“Hay fever season can be miserable for so many people. Over-the-counter medication is the most effective way of relieving symptoms but there are lots of other things that you can do to ensure you’re not stuck indoors for the spring and summer months. NHS Direct’s new symptom checker is a great way to get advice about how you can reduce the symptoms of hay fever and other allergies, often meaning that you won’t have to go to see your GP or another health professional for advice. If further advice is needed we can arrange for one of our nurses to call you back for a further assessment.”

NHS Direct can also be contacted over the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0845 4647.

Source : NHS Direct

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