Our top 10 tips for hay fever season
We love this time of year: longer, sunnier days are definitely adding a spring to our step. That being said, the blooming flowers also mark the arrival of the certainly less welcome hay fever season! Allergic rhinitis – more commonly known as hay fever – is a collection of symptoms caused by airborne particles of pollen. The 1 in 4 of us that suffer from hay fever in the UK, can experience a range of symptoms including watery eyes, bouts of sneezing and runny noses as our bodies launch an immune response in an attempt to flush out the offending pollen.
While there is much we can do to alleviate these symptoms, if left untreated this pesky allergy can keep us locked indoors and unable to make the most of the warmer weather. From simple lifestyle changes to medical interventions, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite tips for staying sneeze-free this season!
1. Stay pollen savvy
This handy pollen forecast from Met Office allows us to stay up to date with regional pollen levels so that we’re never caught off guard. When planning ahead, it is also worth noting that pollen counts are at their highest at the beginning and end of the day.
2. Head to the chemist
There are a number of readily available, over-the-counter treatments that can help to manage the symptoms of hay fever. If you’re suffering with dry, itchy and/or sore eyes, sodium cromoglicate eye drops can help to provide relief. Similarly, nasal sprays and barrier balms are useful tools that can help to block the inhalation of airborne allergens, preventing symptoms before they occur.
Anti-histamine tablets are one of the most effective treatments as they prevent the action of histamine – the chemical produced by the body in order to trigger an allergy response. It is important to note, however, that histamine also plays an important role in regulating sleep and wakefulness. This means that some anti-histamines, such as chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine and promethazine, can cause drowsiness and are best taken at night. If you would prefer to take your anti-histamine first thing, look out for non-drowsy alternatives such as cetirizine, loratadine and fexofenadine.
3. Reach for some sunnies
If symptoms of hay fever are particularly acute around the eyes, it can be really helpful to use a physical block as well as anti-histamine eye drops. With the added bonus of protecting delicate under eye skin from damaging (and ageing) UV radiation, sunglasses also help to keep out any airborne pollen. Sleeping with windows shut and fan on can also help to prevent pollen settling on your eyes as you sleep.
4. Wash hair and clothes daily
Throughout the day, pollen particles can get caught in our hair and clothes, often resulting in a flare of symptoms even when safely indoors. Washing or brushing out hair and/or simply changing our clothes once home can prevent any unnecessary irritation. If allergies have escalated out of control, standing under a cool shower can also help to bring rapid relief.
5. Dry clothes and bed sheets inside
Once again, clothes and bed linen hung outside to dry can accumulate huge amounts of pollen. Using a tumble dryer or hanging laundry (particularly pillow cases) away from open windows are safer options for those struggling with hay fever.
6. Keep pets off the furniture
At this time of year, dogs really aren’t a man’s best friend. Our furry companions can carry pollen from outside and leave traces of it throughout our homes. If symptoms of hay fever are keeping you up at night, make sure pets are kept off the bed.
7. Avoid cigarette smoke
If you needed another reason to stay away from the cigarettes, the thousands of chemicals present in smoke can irritate the lungs, eyes, throat and nose and will exacerbate any symptoms of hay fever.
8. Avoid alcohol
We love a G&T in the sun as much as the next person but, unfortunately, alcohol stimulates the production of histamine – the pesky chemical that is produced in excess in hay fever sufferers. If sneezing and runny noses are getting you down, we recommend opting for a mocktail (check out our delicious sour cherry and lime julep recipe here), a glass of gut-friendly kombucha or even a non-alcoholic spirit such as the deliciously botanical Seedlip Garden.
9. Listen to your gut
Here at Liz Earle Wellbeing we are passionate advocates for great gut health. It really does affect all areas of health from digestion to mental health. Crucially, a recent study has shown that probiotics that contain both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria can help to alleviate hay fever symptoms.
While many swear by eating a spoonful of locally produced honey in order to help the body build an immunity to local pollen, there is currently no evidence from the scientific community to support this claim. However, raw honey is a good prebiotic that has been shown to aid digestion and promote a healthy gut microbial balance in favour of hay fever fighting lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
10. Visit your GP
If severe symptoms persist, it’s worth popping to see your local GP. There are a number of prescription-only treatments available including stronger anti-histamine tablets, steroids and immunotherapy – a treatment that exposes patients to increasing amounts of pollen over time through tablets and/or injections.