Are you one of the estimated 10 million hay fever sufferers in the UK? If you are, then I’m sure you don’t need me to tell just how annoying it is. Itchy, streaming eyes, a constant runny nose and a throat that feels as though you’ve swallowed a hundred razor blades. Sound familiar?
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is one of the most common allergies to affect humans and this time of year is when it gets particularly bad. In my opinion, Spring is by far the prettiest season; all the flowers are bursting into bloom, the trees are sprouting new leaves and the air is filled with positive vibes and new life, but with it comes a hay fever sufferers worst nightmare…
Because put simply, hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen and when this fine powder becomes airborne it becomes a homing missile to every single human facial orifice in the vicinity. It gets in your eyes, up your nostrils and down your throat, seriously nowhere is safe.
There are three different types of pollen and you could easily be affected by one and not another, or you could be really unlucky and have sensitivity to all three.
Each pollen type also has its own season:
- Tree – Spring
- Grass – End of Spring/beginning of Summer
- Weed – Late Autumn
Hay fever can hit you at any age, although you are most likely to develop it during childhood or as a teenager and you are more at risk if you have a family background of allergies, in particular asthma or eczema. The good news is that for many, the symptoms can improve with age and there are a few different things you can do to help relieve the discomfort.
Can I Take Anything To Make It Stop?
Unfortunately there is currently no cure for hay fever, however there are lots of different hay fever treatments available and it’s all about finding the right one for the specific symptoms you are experiencing.
Histamine is a compound that is released in the body when it is exposed to allergens, in this case pollen, and it reacts by swelling up in an attempt to block this attack on the immune system. Most hay fever tablets therefore contain antihistamines; the power fighting crusaders that prevent this reaction from happening and that also help calm down any inflammation that may have already occurred.
Hay fever tablets are without doubt the most popular hay fever treatment, because…
- The tablets are tiny and therefore really easy to swallow,
- You only need to take one a day,
- They’re readily available,
- They don’t interrupt your day,
- They treat all hay fever symptoms.
Nasal sprays are a great tool to use if your hay fever symptoms are focused more around the nose and sinuses. It can be used alone or in combination with both hayfever tablets and eye drops. When the nasal passages come into contact with pollen it can cause swelling and inflammation, which in turn blocks up the nose. The body will also react by over producing runny mucus to try and flush out the pollen, and this means lots of sneezing and a constantly streaming nose.
Hay fever nasal sprays usually contain a steroid to help reduce this inflammation and some will also contain an antihistamine as well. The benefit of using a nasal spray is that you only need a small amount to notice a huge improvement, and a low dosage also means the risk of any side effects is greatly reduced.
Eyes drops, like nasal sprays, can also be used alongside hay fever tablets and they offer much needed relief to dry, scratchy, irritated and runny pollen affected eyes. It’s really easy to find hay fever eye drops in most high street or online chemists and all come in small bottles that fit easily into your handbag or pocket. If you wear contact lenses it is probably best that you take them out whenever you experience any eye related hay fever symptoms and always check with your optician before using any eye drops whilst wearing your contacts.
This one’s still not backed up by any strong scientific evidence, however many hay fever sufferers swear blind by it and when you really think about it, it does make an awful lot of sense. The theory is that by eating a small amount of local honey everyday; it could be a spoonful in your tea or on top of your porridge, it exposes you to a small amount of pollen. Go on, think about it…the very same pollen that is causing you grief is the stuff being collected by the local honeybees, which they then turn into honey. So, if you start to ingest some of that honey, your body should start to build up a tolerance to the pollen. Yes there’s no scientific proof, but hey if it means you get to eat more honey then surely there’s no harm in trying right?!
What Can I Do To Help?
All of the above treatments are great at helping to relieve or prevent the symptoms of hay fever, but is there anything you can do at home to help further?
Try these tips:
- Wear wrap around sunglasses outdoors – this will prevent pollen from getting into your eyes.
- Check the pollen count – most weather forecasts will also mention pollen count if it is particularly high, and if it is then it is probably advisable to stay indoors that day.
- Take a shower and change your clothes – if you’ve been outside all day you may have picked up a whole heap of pollen on your body and clothes without you even realising.
- Rub a small amount of Vaseline under your nostrils – this can help trap pollen, stopping the particles from getting into the nasal passages.
There’s no question that hay fever is annoying, especially when it comes on at the time of year when you most want to be spending time outdoors. But, as you can see, there are many different options to hopefully help alleviate the symptoms, meaning as long as the weather stays fine, you can get out and enjoy the British summertime.
How Do You Cope With Hay Fever?
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