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With the weather improving some of you will be desperate to get busy planting flowers in the garden, but Spring might leave some of you filled with dread, as the allergy season is officially upon us!

One of the biggest offenders for springtime allergies has to be hay fever, which is an allergy caused by pollen. According to NHS choices, hay fever affects 1 in 5 people. With so many possible offenders from grass, trees, flowers, and bushes it can be hard to work out what type you are allergic to and at what point you will suffer with your symptoms. Pollen can travel miles and when it reaches the nose of the hay fever sufferer it sends their body into overdrive. The immune system sees the pollen as an invader and causes the release of histamine. This influx of histamine will trigger the itchy eyes, runny nose, bouts of sneezing and itchy throat that sounds familiar to many of you.

There are a number of over the counter medications that may be beneficial for allergy suffers, so it is certainly worth consulting with your pharmacist to see if any are suitable for you. Your GP may be able to recommend more aggressive treatments if the over the counter medications don’t work.

There are however a number of self help techniques you can use which may alleviate some of your symptoms.

Wear a hat with a large brim and wraparound sunglasses.

Try to avoid going out when pollen count is exceptionally high.

Take frequent showers and wash clothes daily after going outdoors

Keep car and house windows closed on high pollen days. If warm indoors use a fan to cool the room

Avoid going outside when grass has been recently cut and if you
do go outside be sure to wear your sunglasses and hat!

If, despite your best efforts you still end up suffering then placing cold cucumber rounds on your eyes, or placing a cold flannel over them may help any inflammation. If it’s the runny nose that bothers you the most you could try putting a small smear of barrier cream such as petroleum jelly just inside your nostrils. This may help reduce the amount of pollen from going up your nose in the first place.

If you do suffer with Hay fever also known as seasonal rhinitis then there is a high chance you will also suffer with asthma, food allergies, and eczema as well as other allergic conditions as these are all inter related.

A small proportion of people will have a bad reaction to a bee or a wasp sting.  According to the Anaphylaxis Society around 1:100 people and only a minority of those reactions will develop into a full anaphylactic shock (severe life threatening allergic reaction)

A bee is not an aggressive insect and generally will only sting if it feels under threat so when stood on, touched or swatted away. A bee sting is the type that leaves the barb in the skin. The whole time the barb remains in place it will continue to sting by releasing venom into the body. The wasp on the other hand has an aggressive nature and tends to sting more readily. It does not leave a stinger behind so can sting you more than once.

As the insects are different they do have different ways of stinging and as such an allergy or sensitivity to one does not automatically mean it will happen with both insects.

Certainly if you or your child are sensitive to bee and wasp stings then its good practical advice to adopt a few easy precautions to lower your chances of getting stung in the first place;

Try to discourage strong scented sun lotions, body sprays, perfumes etc

Avoid walking barefoot outside to reduce the risk of stings to the feet.

Wear long loose sleeved tops to reduce the amount of skin on display.

Use insect repellents and apply frequently when outdoors

Avoid bright colour clothing as many insects including bees and wasps are drawn to them

Never drink out of cans of fizzy drinks that have been left unattended outdoors as wasps particularly enjoy sweet drink, and often hide inside them!

If someone has a reaction to bee and wasp stings they often panic but in reality the quick actions of running away, flapping arms will leave the insect feeling under threat and increase the chance of it stinging you. Although it’s one of the hardest things to do when you are scared, staying calm and still is the best advice as the insect will often move on.

As for treating the sting, if it’s a bee sting the barb must be removed immediately. There are two ways to do this; either remove it using tweezers pulling it out following the way it went in. Do try to avoid both breaking the sting and squeezing the surrounding area as you will inadvertently squeeze the venom further into your body. The other option is to scrape or flick the sting with a credit card to push the barb out.

Apply a cold compress or ice pack immediately (never place ice direct to the skin) and if necessary elevate the area (if a limb) to help reduce swelling. Some simple antihistamines may be helpful, although please do check with a pharmacist first before giving medication.

If the person is stung on the face, airway or in the mouth (for example by drinking from a can) then they should seek medical help. Likewise if they experience any breathing problems they should seek advice immediately.

Cheryl Parkes

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