Hay fever season is well underway and runs until early October, according to respiratory consultant Professor Marcus Butler speaking on Today with Claire Byrne. Professor Butler explains that the season is actually made up of three mini-seasons which run into each other:

"The tree pollen is really high right now, that’s the first typically that appears in this part of the world and it overlaps then with the grass pollen, which is the predominant concern for your listeners. And that tails off just as the weed pollen takes over in August. So it spans really from February to as late as early October."

Professor Butler advises a chat with your G.P. or pharmacist if you have individual medical queries. In the meantime, here are some of the top tips he shared with Claire Byrne’s listeners:

  • Wear a close-fitting Covid mask when hanging out the washing or cutting the grass to reduce the amount of pollen inhaled when out of doors.
  • Over the counter (OTC) medications like antihistamines are fine to take, just make sure not to accidentally double up on the amounts when taking different medications together.
  • A gentle nasal steroid is one of the best things to take for sinus sufferers.
  • Clean out the nasal passages with OTC saline products before using a nasal spray or drops - This can help the medication to work more effectively.
  • If the OTC medications don’t give any relief, Professor Butler recommends going to your GP.
  • Have a shower in the evening to avoid bringing the allergens to bed with you.

If you have hay fever-like symptoms all year round, Prof. Butler says you may have perennial rhinitis. He says this is different to hay fever as it’s not driven by pollen:

"It’s typical that that’s house dust-mite driven, or other indoor allergens. Mould, if there’s a period home that might have patches of damp or just poor quality accommodations, unfortunately for a lot of people have difficulties with the current housing crisis. That mould indoors can absolutely cause perennial rhinitis problems for sufferers."

The dust mites are very happy in the Irish climate and they will go wherever humans go, says Prof. Butler. They are microscopic, he says, much smaller than the specks of dust you might see in shaft of sunlight. He has some tips to prevent or minimise the symptoms of allergic rhinitis:

  • Put anti-allergy covers on pillows, duvets and mattresses to stop the mites from taking up residence in your bedding.
  • If the household budget allows, tumble dry your bedding at 60 degrees once a week to kill the mites.
  • Dust mites also live in stuffed toys. If the toys can’t be hot washed, they can be popped in the freezer for 24 hours and then thawed out before returning to their owner.
  • If you have carpets, you can add a HEPA filter to the vacuum cleaner to filter out allergens.
  • Avoiding carpets completely is even better if you have perennial rhinitis, as house mites love carpets.

Professor Butler speaks about new immunotherapy treatment for allergies, dealing with allergies during pregnancy and answers listeners’ questions in the full interview here.