It’s almost officially summer time! The birds are singing, the skies are a cloudless blue and the grass is making us all choke with the symptoms of hay fever. Are the high pollen counts this year rendering you housebound? If so, you’re not the only one – hay fever affects around 1 in 5 people and can begin (and end!) at any age.
In England, there has been a significant increase in hay fever suffers reporting a vast change in their symptoms – and not for the better. Fortunately, many sufferers report that symptoms lessen later in life, so we can at least stay hopeful it might not last forever! But before we go wishing our summers away, the best we can do is try to prevent and treat the suffering. Find our top tips below.
How does it work?
Pollen is released into the air by trees, plants and grass in the form of microscopic grains and the wind carries them until they stick to something or someone or are inhaled. Sufferers experience everything from running noses to itchy, watering eyes and excessive sneezing. Hay fever varies from person to person and some people find their eyes swelling up and the skin under their nose damaged and sore after a long day of using even the softest tissues – and not to mention the nosebleeds and headaches from over-blowing. When spring-time comes around, you may arm yourself with an array of hay fever tablets, a nasal inhaler to help you breathe through your nose and excessive boxes of tissues, but this year there have been many people complaining that it is simply not enough. Save yourself a visit to your GP and read our top ideas for prevention and treatment!
Hay Fever Prevention
1. Know the facts
Studies have proven that pollen levels are higher at certain times of the day, especially in the afternoon on a warm, dry and sunny day. Pollen counts can be expected to be highest in the early morning and late afternoon to early evening. It is, however, possible for pollen to affect sufferers throughout the night too on long hot days. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!
The ‘pollen season’ is actually a recognised time and can definitely make a big difference to our lives. The Met Office shares pollen counts daily plus estimates for the following five days but certain times of the year are affected by different types of pollen:
• Late March to mid-May – tree pollen. Avoid a romantic walk through the woods!
• Mid-May to July – grass pollen. Try to mow and rake your lawn before this time.
• End of June to September – plant pollen. During these months, try your best to avoid smelling the pretty flowers!
2. Keep clean
When coming inside after being outdoors, have a shower, wash your hair and, at the very least if you don’t want to shower daily, change your clothes to protect yourself from the microscopic grains of pollen that have attached themselves to you and your outfit. It’s a nightmare to sit with the windows shut on hot days so when you give into temptation and let the fresh air in, vacuum the house regularly and dust with a damp cloth as this will help to prevent the extra pollen from settling on surfaces.
3. Protect your clothes
We all love the idea of giving the tumble dryer a break and hanging our clothes to dry outside but as pollen sticks to it, we’re then wearing clean clothes covered in sneeze-inducing pollen. Hang your clothes inside and let them dry in the heat of your home. If you buy any clothes hung up outdoors, such as at a market or outside of a clothing store, wash them before wearing. In fact, wash items sold from indoors too – pollen can be carried inside by other customers or may be pushed through the open door by the wind.
4. Other ways pollen can enter your life
Pets can bring in pollen too so try to give them a wipe-down before bringing them indoors. Also, they may look pretty but flowers will only exasperate your hay fever. The NHS website explains that smoking or being around smokers can heighten symptoms, as can beer, wine and spirits as many alcohols contain histamine, the chemical that affects allergy symptoms in the body. There goes our sunny day beer garden plans. It really isn’t fair is it?! Ok, maybe we’ll just have a couple…
5. Protect yourself outdoors
The NHS advises that if sufferers must go outside they should wear sunglasses to protect eyes from pollen and put Vaseline over nostrils to lessen inhalation. Take tissues for when they’re needed and extra Vaseline for after blowing your nose as you will need a top up. Take a detour to avoid recently cut grass and wooded areas too!
6. Invest in a rake
Grass needs mowing occasionally, it’s a simple (and irritating) fact of life. Short grass carries less pollen but when it’s initially cut, it’s a nightmare for those with hay fever. Ask a housemate or someone in your flat building nicely to have a quick rake of the grass and to clear up excess grass left behind by the lawnmower. If this isn’t possible, use a dust mask (you can find them in pound shops) and get the lawn mowed and raked as quickly as possible.
Hay Fever Treatment
As spring rolls around you might rely on hay fever tablets to get you through the day but other options include eye drops to keep you from itching your eyes and the inevitable swelling often associated with this. Nasal sprays keep airways clear and enable easier breathing at 3 a.m when sleep seems like a lifetime away. Try buying some high strength over the counter medication as recommended by a chemist before visiting your GP, although keep in mind that they can prescribe stronger medication if it becomes necessary. Cough tablets will help ease a painful cough and an itching throat can be eased with a cold drink.
2. Improve air quality
Improve the quality of the air around you with an air purifier or try putting a little bit of Olbas oil or eucalyptus oil into an oil burner, heat it up and let it circulate around the room to help you breathe more clearly. It’s the same as using a nasal inhaler except you don’t have to hold it to your nose for ages at a time.
3. The hay fever jab
If reading the word ‘injection’ doesn’t make you shudder in fear, there is a hay fever jab available, however results are not guaranteed. Do your research before putting yourself out of pocket and giving the vaccine a try.
4. Asthma inhalers
If your breathing is excessively bad and you keep wheezing, speak to your doctor who may prescribe you with an asthma inhaler.
5. Natural options
Honey made locally to you is collected by bees accessing local plants, filled with nearby pollen. Many people begin consuming a spoonful of local honey every day from around September to October in preparation for the following year. Small amounts of honey can also be added to cereal, coffee and other liquids if you can’t bear to consume it on its own to equate to a spoonful throughout the day. Strawberries also contain a natural antihistamine, believe it or not!
Hay Fever Hygiene
Keep a packet or two of tissues in your pocket or bag every time you go outdoors and cover your nose with a tissue or your sleeve every time you feel a sneeze coming. Put a bottle of hygenic hand sanitiser in your bag in case you don’t get to a tissue in time and disinfect your hands before touching your phone, tap, laptop, TV remote (etc) or just disinfect the item itself if necessary. It’s easy to keep your home clean without becoming obsessive about it. Keep washing your hands and avoid touching your face.
Hay fever might affect you while you’re studying at school or sitting an exam, while you’re working in the office or getting lunch and even when you’re driving but rest assured that there is no proof that it poses a serious threat to your health, it’s just really, really annoying. It can however lead to ear infections in children and nosebleeds. Please see a chemist or doctor if you have any concerns such as if nosebleeds are too regular, if consistent wheezing turns into a lack of breath or if headaches become migraines as this can lead to worsening health. Stay safe!