What is seasonal hayfever (allergic rhinitis)?The terms seasonal hayfever and seasonal allergic rhinitis are used to describe hayfever that occurs only at certain times of the year. In contrast, hayfever that occurs all year round is called perennial rhinitis or perennial hayfever.
What causes seasonal hayfever?Many plants rely on the wind for fertilisation, and consequently release large amounts of pollen into the air to be distributed far and wide. Once airborne, these pollens are a renowned trigger for hayfever and other allergies. In Australia, some of the most common causes of pollen allergies include Paterson's Curse, Pellitory Weed (also known as Asthma Weed), Ragweed and a range of other weeds and grasses.
When does seasonal hayfever occur?Although many people think of the springtime as hayfever season, it's also possible to experience it at other times of the year. If you’re a seasonal allergy sufferer here in Australia, the time of year you're likely to be affected can last anywhere from a couple of months to half the year or even longer, depending on which plant pollen(s) you’re allergic to. As a general rule of thumb though, allergies to tree pollens are often worse in the springtime, while allergies to pollens from grasses and weeds are often more significant in the summer. The plant life, geography and climate of your local environment may also have an impact on when you experience hay fever and its severity and duration. For example, people living in inland areas of Australia tend to be exposed to more pollen due to the surrounding farmland than people living in coastal cities. On the other hand, if you're experiencing hay fever all year round or indoors, its likely that the allergen(s) that trigger your symptoms are indoors too, in which case dust mites are a very common trigger, along with other airborne allergens (such as cockroach droppings and hair and skin cells from dogs and cats). Unfortunately, some people experience both seasonal and perennial hay fever, making it particularly difficult for them to avoid allergy triggers and manage their symptoms.
Managing seasonal hayfeverIt's important to be aware that while it may seem like a frustrating but relatively minor issue, hayfever may increase your risk of developing certain other health problems, including sinusitis - especially if the inflammation and congestion in your nasal passages is severe or persistent. There are a number of things you can do to reduce your exposure to seasonal allergens and help manage your symptoms. Here are some of the most important:
- If you or your child experience frequent or severe bouts of hayfever, it's important to identify the triggers, so talk to your healthcare professional about appropriate allergy testing
- Get an app for your phone that measures the pollen in your local area and take protective measures on days that the pollen count is high or when it’s very windy
- If you must venture out on those days, wear protective sunglasses when outside
- If you’ve been exposed to pollens and are experiencing hayfever, have a shower to wash any pollen or dust off your skin and out of your hair
- Rinse your eyes with cool water a few times too, and try a saline (salt water) spray or rinse for your nose
- Avoid gardening tasks such as mowing the lawn (ask someone else to do them for you, and stay indoors with the windows closed while they do)
- Check that the plants outside your windows aren't releasing pollen into your home; if they are, swap them for a plant you’re not allergic to (again, it’s best to get someone else to do this task)