Asthma Society advises how best to manager hay fever symptoms while enjoying the outdoors this June bank holiday

30 May 2024

As we approach a period of high pollen this June Bank Holiday weekend, the Asthma Society of Ireland is issuing urgent advice on managing asthma and hay fever.

Hay fever affects a significant portion of the population: Over 450,000 people in Ireland are living with asthma, and 80% of those also experience hay fever. Proper management techniques can significantly improve quality of life, especially when wanting to enjoy the outdoors. In a recent survey conducted by the organisation of over 1,200 people living with asthma and/or hay fever, 76% of people with hay fever (727) said that it limits their or their child's daily activities and has a disruptive effect on their lives. Almost four in five (78%) revealed that during the hay fever season (March to September), their or their child's participation in sports or activities is disrupted due to hay fever.

With the onset of warmer weather, those with hay fever often find themselves battling symptoms that can hinder outdoor enjoyment and athletic pursuits. The Asthma Society is urging everyone to take precautions and manage their hay fever symptoms. It is also reminding those with asthma that unmanaged hay fever can trigger an asthma attack.

Typical symptoms of seasonal hay fever and perennial allergic rhinitis are not limited to just a few, but can include a number of the following:

  • Sneezing, as well as an itchy, blocked, or runny nose

  • Red, itchy, or watery eyes

  • An itchy throat, inner ear, or mouth

  • A post-nasal drip

  • A diminished sense of taste and smell

  • Headaches, reduced concentration, and a general feeling of unwellness

A combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes can help people adequately manage hay fever. Appropriate medication, including antihistamines and immunotherapy, can be accessed through your GP or pharmacist.

Ruth Morrow, a Respiratory Nurse Specialist at the Asthma Society, emphasises the importance of proper management techniques. "For individuals impacted by hay fever during sports or outdoor activities, planning ahead is essential. This includes taking antihistamines as prescribed, using nasal sprays to alleviate congestion, wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect the eyes from pollen, and splashing your eyes with cold water to flush out pollen and soothe them."

There are also other ways you can manage your hay fever:

  • Avoid exercising outside when the pollen count is high, and wear a cycle mask when cycling.
  • Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes if you have been outdoors for an extended period.
  • Avoid drying clothes outdoors because pollen spores may cling to them.
  • Try to stay away from grassy areas and avoid mowing the lawn, as clouds of pollen can be created. Consider creating an allergy-friendly garden.
  • Minimise contact with pets that have been outside, as pollen can linger on their fur.
  • Keep your car windows closed when driving. Some cars can be fitted with a pollen filter.
  • Apply a barrier gel/spray to the nostrils to prevent pollen from settling in the nose.
  • Discuss the use of treatments for hay fever with your pharmacist or GP.
  • For those with asthma, make sure you have a personalised Asthma Action Plan. An Asthma Action Plan sets out the steps each patient needs to take to stay well with asthma and how to manage flare-ups when they happen. It should be filled out by a GP, nurse or consultant and reviewed regularly.

Top Tips from people living with asthma include:

  • Biola Wyrwas, from Dublin, finds the Asthma Society of Ireland's Adviceline service invaluable for additional support during hay fever season. Her and her family have made adjustments to their life; closing windows at night and not drying their clothes out on summer days.
  • James Clegg, from Dublin, who has asthma and allergies, plans ahead so he can enjoy an active lifestyle during hay fever season. He avoids freshly cut grass and wears wraparound sunglasses while walking outside. He also schedules outdoor activities in the morning when the pollen fall is lower, showers afterward, and changes clothes to prevent pollen from entering his home.

Prof Patrick Mitchell, a respiratory consultant physician at Tallaght University Hospital and member of the Asthma Society of Ireland’s Medical Advisory Group, outlines the importance of good hay fever management, “During periods of elevated pollen levels, hay fever or allergic rhinitis can pose particularly serious health risks for people with asthma. It's important for individuals, especially those with asthma, to take preventative measures to minimise hay fever symptoms. Often, antihistamines and, if needed, steroidal nasal sprays will relieve symptoms. Over 450,000 people in Ireland have asthma, and allergic rhinitis can trigger asthma symptoms, like coughing and shortness of breath, and even an asthma attack. By effectively managing hay fever, people with asthma can enhance their quality of life and we can promote better respiratory health overall.”

Find our infographic and webinar on hay fever and how to manage symptoms this season here.