Hay fever in February always heralds the start of the following symptoms:
Then the chances are that you have seasonal allergic rhinitis – commonly known as hay fever. If the symptoms last all year round (all the time or on and off) then you have non-seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Rhinitis is inflammation of the nasal passages and it has many causes, of which the most common is an allergy to a substance like pollen, house dust mite or pet dander. In the case of hay fever, the problem allergen is pollen from trees, grasses or weeds. If you only have hay fever in February (maybe clearing up within a few weeks) then it is most likely that you are allergic to pollen from a tree.
The tree pollen season goes from early January to late April and each tree species produces pollen for three to four weeks in all. The following tree species (in the order in which their pollen appears) can cause hay fever in February in the UK:
The exact time of year when particular tree pollen is around depends very much upon winter weather, the location of the tree, hours of sunshine in the day and temperature. Tree pollen is carried around by the wind (unlike pollen from flowering plants, which is carried by insects and far less likely to cause an allergy problem), which is why it is present in the air. Pollen grains are small (between 10 to 40 microns in size). They can be carried through great distances so you might not even need to be in the presence of trees to experience hay fever in February. Moreover, they sometimes break up into tinier fragments which remain airborne for longer.
Pollen grains contain specific proteins which cause a response in an allergic person but are harmless to those who are not allergic. The response causes the immune system to produce histamine and that is responsible for the typical symptoms of hayfever. These symptoms can interfere with work, study and social life, and if they are severe it is worth asking your doctor to refer you for skin prick or blood tests to pinpoint your allergen, so you can work towards avoiding it.
It is certainly possible to reduce your hay fever in February to tree pollen by adopting the following tips.
If your allergies are strong, then it will be difficult to completely avoid hay fever in February, so it's also important to have some effective medication on hand. The new generation non-sedating antihistamines (like Claritin) are useful against the symptoms of hay fever in February because they block the action of histamine. You may find short-term use of a decongestant helpful as well. Most hay fever medications are available over the counter these days. Always read the label and, if you have questions, do ask the pharmacist about the medication.