Millions of people worldwide are affected by allergic rhinitis - more commonly known as hay fever. So exactly what causes it?

Well, it's all thanks to allergens including pollens, dust mite, moulds, and animal dander, which then cause reactions including:

  • Runny, itchy, congested nose.

  • Itchy, watery, irritated, red eyes.

  • Itchy ears, throat and palate.

  • Sneezing

  • Fatigue

From late winter into early spring and beyond, pollen counts tend to rise, and with it so do hay fever symptoms. If you find you're susceptible to this allergen, visit PollenForecast to get the latest pollen count for your area.

Managing allergic rhinitis

Some simple prevention and management tips include:

  • Be aware of the pollen count if you're going outside so you can prepare a treatment plan. This could include antihistamines, eye drops, nasal spray or applying vaseline to your nostrils as this will help stick pollen and avoid inhaling it further.

  • Avoid hanging washing outside between 10am-4pm, the peak time for pollen dissemination, as pollen can stick to clothes. Similarly, remove clothing and wash them when you have been outside in an area where the pollen count is high.

  • If you have been exposed to pollen at home, shower and wash your hair to avoid spreading pollen to your bed, sofa, and other areas of your house.

  • Avoid mowing lawns and weeding as this can trigger hay fever attacks.

  • Avoid having flowers in your house as this can cause irritation.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) also suggests to stay indoors until midday (particularly on windy days), wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen, keep windows closed at home and in the car, plan holidays outside of pollen season or simply travel to the seaside (there are fewer pollens by the ocean).

Also be kind to yourself if you're having a hay fever flare-up, don't over-exert yourself. For example, if you feel exhausted give yourself a break and don't worry about exercising if you don't feel up to it.

Asthma advice

For those suffering from asthma, allergic rhinitis can become quite dangerous if not taken seriously.

Information from ASCIA indicates that an acute asthma attack can be provoked when small amounts of pollen penetrate deep into the airways of the lungs, which can cause rapid breathing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. This can also be triggered by thunderstorms. You can read more about Thunderstorm Asthma here.

For effective management, consult with your GP as soon as possible to prevent serious risks and life-threatening symptoms. Alternatively, individuals or their family members can speak to a nurse at Sonder who can assess symptoms and suggest when/where to seek the most appropriate medical treatment.

However, if you are having symptoms of a severe asthma attack such as difficulty speaking, shortness of breath, chest tightness and severe wheezing you must seek urgent medical attention. Delaying treatment could be life threatening.

Which antihistamines work best

There are many hay fever medications on chemist shelves, so it can be tricky understanding which will work best for you and your individual symptoms.

Speak to your local pharmacist about your symptoms and they can provide advice on which antihistamine brand and formula may work best for you. If over-the-counter treatment (antihistamines) are not working, speak to your GP for prescribed treatment.

Depending on your symptom severity, they can discuss long-term treatment, such as allergen immunotherapy (AIT) with you. According to ASCIA, AIT therapy has the ability to eliminate severe allergic reactions by repeatedly introducing small doses of allergen extracts via different methods including: injection, sublingual tablets, sprays or drops. AIT therapy should only be started after assessment by a clinical immunology/allergy specialist to determine if this is a suitable treatment option.

Another option available is the use of neuro-modulator medicine, also known as Haytox. Researchers from Monash University have proven that treatments with Botox can block receptors in the nasal cavity that are responsible for provoking hay fever symptoms. Scholars also applaud the treatment for having no side effects, being super quick and cost-effective. Individuals must have a consultation with a medical professional prior to treatment.


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime, in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Image credit: Brittany Colette on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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