How to handle hay fever during lock-down

(Last Updated On: April 17, 2020)

While most of us look forward to the arrival of warmer weather, for allergy sufferers it can be a tricky time of year – and being in lockdown does not mean we’re less susceptible.

High pollen counts are bad news for hay fever sufferers who often succumb to symptoms such as sneezing, headaches, itchy eyes and even inflamed ears. And while we may be spending less time out and about, we can still be affected if our windows are open or if we’re lucky enough to have a garden.

As well as sneezing and a blocked or runny nose, hay fever can also be particularly problematic for contact lens wearers. You should always try to avoid rubbing your eyes but it is very important to try not to touch your face and maintain good hand hygiene during the coronavirus outbreak.

Specsavers Clinical Services Director Giles Edmonds says: ‘Hay fever sufferers who wear contact lenses may notice the vision through their lenses can appear smeary and eyes can generally feel uncomfortable.

‘However, there are some things contact lens wearers can try to help reduce the irritation. Contact lens-friendly eye drops can help to calm down any itchiness, and wearing prescription glasses (particularly wraparound sunglasses) can prevent pollen from getting into your eyes. Those suffering from hay fever could also try daily disposable lenses during the summer months.’

But, it is not just eyes which are affected, as hay fever can also affect your ears.

‘Allergic reactions can affect the lining of the middle ear via the Eustachian tube, which links the middle ear to the nose and throat. If this becomes blocked it can lead to a build-up in pressure, which can cause discomfort, popping in the ears, earache and impair your ability to hear.

‘To avoid irritation, try putting a balm like Vaseline around the nose to trap pollen, and vacuum and dust your home regularly, or you can try over-the-counter allergy relief. Staying inside when the pollen count is high will also help to avoid irritation, and showering and changing your clothes when you get home will help to remove pollen from skin and hair,’ advises Giles.

It is also important to note that, while a runny nose is a common symptom for allergy sufferers, for a few people it has also been a reported symptom of coronavirus. If you are experiencing any of the other symptoms, such as a dry cough, fever or tiredness, make sure that you self-quarantine and seek medical advice.

It is normal for hay fever sufferers to have red, itchy and watery eyes, which is actually a form of allergic conjunctivitis. Coronavirus can cause conjunctivitis but it is rare, occurring in only about 1-3% of affected people. Conjunctivitis associated with coronavirus tends to occur in the later stages of the disease and alongside more common symptoms such as a continuous cough and fever. If you have none of the other symptoms associated with corona-virus it is unlikely that it is the cause of your conjunctivitis.

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