When I was in my mid-twenties, I figured I had finally become a grown-up. I had a proper job with a proper swivel-y chair, a new boyfriend (now husband) and very grown-up things like health insurance and more than one handbag. So when my eyes started to itch one spring, I did what any sensible grown-up does: nothing at all. I blundered around for weeks on end, complaining about itchy eyes and a runny nose, but never thought to go to a pharmacy and find out what it might be.
Eventually common sense kicked in, and after speaking to a pharmacist, I discovered that I had hay fever. I hadn’t realised you could get it as an adult – I thought it was something you had from birth or not at all, but that’s not the case.
It’s estimated that around 20% of Irish people suffer from hay fever, experiencing symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes, and it usually occurs in spring and summer, when there’s more pollen in the air.
The symptoms of hay fever occur when the immune system overreacts to pollen by releasing a chemical called histamine. This triggers the symptoms of an allergic reaction – the runny nose, the sneezing, and the itchy eyes.
Hay fever (as I discovered) is something that can present at any stage in life, and is more likely if there is a family history of allergies, particularly asthma or eczema. Many people assume that it’s something you have as a child or not at all, and are taken aback to start experiencing symptoms as an adult.
But the good news is, there are many different types of treatments. At the time, I opted for a one-a-day anti-histamine oral tablet, and found it managed my symptoms really well. A happy ending, and back to being a proper grown-up.
Except it wasn’t. Over the years, I found that the tablets were making me more and more drowsy. I don’t know if I changed, or if it was down to having three kids – the drowsiness that was manageable in my carefree twenties didn’t fit so well with my childrearing thirties. So I stopped taking oral anti-histamines and opted for moaning to my husband and carrying dozens of packets of tissues everywhere instead. It never dawned on me to go back to the pharmacist and find out if there were alternative treatments – I just suffered in (loud, moany) silence instead.
Then a chance conversation this year introduced me to nasal sprays. I tried one prescription spray, and found it worked wonderfully and without quite as much drowsiness as the tablets. I took it at night, and it was the difference between sleeping or not sleeping for weeks on end.
But even with all that, the spray is medication, and not something I want to take at the first sign of an itchy eye. So when Boots recently offered me the opportunity to test some of their non-medicated products, I was not only delighted to accept, but also surprised that they even existed. Just like in my mid-twenties, I was putting up with symptoms instead of looking for further solutions.
And to really test the products, I took them to Bloom – Ireland’s biggest garden festival, literally brimming with pollen.
First of all I tried “Allergy Barrier Nasal Spray” which acts as a barrier to airborne allergens – so it’s protecting you from the cause and therefore helping to prevent the symptoms. It’s not a medical product – this is what I love – it’s a nasal powder spray containing a blend of cellulose and peppermint. You spray it inside your nose, and it stops the pollen getting in. And it worked. I spent six hours in Bloom without sneezing at all. And of course, as it doesn’t contain any active ingredients, there was no drowsiness – I can’t imagine minding three small kids in Bloom (or anywhere) while drowsy, so for me, this is a big selling point.
That night at home, my eyes were itchy, as they are every night at this time of year, only more so – presumably after my pollen-filled day. So I tried another product – “Irritated Eyes Eye Drops”. The effect was immediate – the itchiness was gone. And all from a product that contains no active ingredients. I’ve never found any product to really effectively deal with the itchy eyes (and mine are especially bad in the evening time) so this was revolutionary. I’m using them every night now, and delighted with the difference they’re making. And it only took me fifteen years to get here…
If you have hay fever, as a long-time but newly educated sufferer, my advice would be to go to your pharmacist and ask for the different treatment options. Boots have a three-step approach:
- Protect: To prevent the allergens getting in in the first place, you could try the Allergy Barrier Nasal Spray that I used, which is also safe in pregnancy and can be given to children.
- Treat: If hay fever sets in, you may need an anti-histamine; in the form of an oral tablet, a nasal spray, or eyedrops – speak to your pharmacist to see what’s best for you.
- Relieve: To help with symptoms, you could try Irritated Eyes Eye Drops, but again, speak to your pharmacist or log on to Boots.ie to find out all the options.
Hay fever is a much more debilitating condition than people realise, so above all, don’t suffer in silence – find out what will work for you, and then you can get on with enjoying the outdoors all summer long.
This is a sponsored post but all opinions (like the hay fever) are my own!