Excerpt from Hay Fever: from Chapter 5
Treating Hay Fever and Pollen Asthma: Self-help and Medical Help
Far too many people with hay fever choose to suffer in silence-if you can describe volleys of explosive sneezes, and regular snorting into handkerchiefs as "silence." According to one survey, for every hundred people with hay fever, fewer than twenty-five are getting treatment that relieves their symptoms fully. No doctor, however optimistic, would suggest that all the hundred could be entirely freed from their symptoms, but it is certainly true that many more people could be helped, and that many could experience far greater relief by reassessing their current forms of treatment.
Reassessment requires knowledge of the disease, knowledge of all the treatments now available, a consideration of the individual's lifestyle and preferences, and some intelligent experimentation. Unless family doctors were to devote themselves full-time to hay fever, abandoning interest in all other diseases, they would be hard-pushed to do this for everyone who needed such help. Consequently, there is a real role for patients to play here-in reassessing their own treatment and calling on their doctor for professional help when it is needed.
Do not expect a panacea-a single treatment that clears up your hay fever unaided. For the lucky few there will be a treatment that produces such magical effects, but for most the battle against allergy is one that has to be fought on several fronts at once.
The two primary forms of treatment-medicinal drugs and pollen avoidance-are dealt with in detail in chapters 7 and 8 respectively. In brief, as far as drugs are concerned, there have been several major innovations in the past few years, including drugs with far fewer side effects. One of the newer drugs may help you, even if you have, in the past, experienced unpleasant reactions to drug treatments.
Pollen avoidance can range from a few simple measures (such as wearing sunglasses or protective glasses and keeping windows closed at certain times of day) to high-tech "pollen-proofing" of your home and car, combined with protection of your nose and eyes when out of doors. These measures are particularly useful to people with severe hay fever who are not helped very much by drugs, or who have strong objections to taking them.
Allergy shots are another option for such patients, and this is fully described in chapter 9. The orthodox method, hypo-sensitization, is explained, along with two relatively new alternative treatments.
Finally, chapter 10 deals with other treatments, mostly unconventional ones, such as dietary supplements, inhalations, homeopathy, hypnosis, herbal remedies, and acupuncture. Some of these may work, while others are probably a waste of money.
By reading each of these chapters in turn, you will have a clear idea of what you could do to tackle your hay fever symptoms. You can then choose from the various options available, selecting those that suit your home and lifestyle, your financial situation, your preferences for drug or non-drug treatments, and the severity of your symptoms. Be prepared to try different approaches and different combinations until you find one that suits you. Everyone is different.
As a very first step, however, you do need to be sure that you are actually suffering from hay fever. Chapter 6 looks at how hay fever should be diagnosed. It suggests how you can diagnose yourself, and when a doctor should be called on to confirm the diagnosis.
If you are allergic to other airborne allergens, not just pollen, you may have a more complex task in dealing with your allergens. Chapter 12 describes these airborne allergens, and the avoidance measures needed for each of them, in detail. The clearest sign of multiple allergies is if your symptoms continue at times of the year when no plants are in flower. Even though the symptoms may be very mild at these times, and seem scarcely worth noticing compared to what you go through in the pollen season, the other allergens are definitely worth investigating. It may be that the year-round effects of other allergens are making the nose unduly sensitive to pollen when it arrives. By dealing with the other allergens, therefore, you could make your hay fever much less severe. The most common allergens involved are those produced by dust mites, molds or pets-and the good news is that control or avoidance of these allergens is much easier than pollen avoidance.
Allergens encountered at work that can produce rhinitis are also dealt with in chapter 12, and this section looks in some detail at sick building syndrome. Finally, chapter 13 deals with non-allergic forms of rhinitis, such as vasomotor rhinitis, and deals with sensitivity to food, which can produce a variety of symptoms, including rhinitis. The last part of the chapter explains how to carry out an elimination diet to diagnose such food problems.