According to Allergy UK 1 in 5 of us suffer from hay fever. My family is a few of these sufferers. It can affect your day-to-day life and generally make you feel fairly miserable. Whether it be the dreaded sniffles, itchy eyes, streaming eyes, lack of concentration, drowsiness or crazy sneezing that doesn’t seem to stop, hay fever symptoms can be very unpleasant. This year we are looking to make our hay fever season more manageable.
What causes hay fever?
Although there are several genetic, dietary, psychological and environmental factors associated with seasonal allergies, they are primarily exacerbated by allergens like pollen, mould or pesky house dust mites. The body then produces allergic antibodies also known as IgE. This allergic reaction is called hay fever.
When is hay fever season?
Traditionally, hay fever months of late March through to September are when the warmer more humid weather conditions produce a higher tree, grass and weed pollen counts. However, due to our warmer February, some people may have noticed earlier season allergy flare ups. It is fair to say that you never really know what weather you will get in the UK, however with the traditional hay fever months fast approaching it is recommended that sufferers start their hay fever offensive in March.
If you are lucky to know you main allergic offender, understanding when that particular season starts will help to minimise the impact. For example the tree pollen season is normally February and June. Grass pollen season kicks in from May to July. Finally weed pollen is between June and September.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
- sneezing, runny or blocked nose
- post nasal drip
- itchy, watering or red eyes
- shortness of breath
- itchy throat
- headaches from blocked sinuses
- tiredness or lack of concentration
When should I start tackle hay fever symptoms?
If you haven’t started your preventative strategies already, beginning now will help get your body ready for when the pollen goes high and reduce the inflammation in the first place
There are a deluge of over the counter options from your pharmacist but what if you are you looking for an alternative or add-on to anti-histamines? Why not try some of these more natural ways to tackle your hay fever including making some dietary and lifestyle changes can improve your symptoms.
Dietary changes to tackle hay fever symptoms
Did you know that by making some dietary changes you can tackle some of the hay fever symptoms …. if not all? Yes replacing dairy products with non-dairy products could help reduce catarrh and mucus from being formed. Great news for those who are blighted with runny noses, however what else can we look at.
Let’s start with vitamin D. We know that living in the UK we are not blessed with enough sunshine to keep our vitamin D levels at an optimum. As a hormone, vitamin D has immune regulating effects and a study has linked vitamin D deficiency with increased allergic rhinitis – hay fever. During the fortnight long study, participants were given either vitamin D (4000 IU daily) or a placebo. The group who received vitamin D noticed fewer daytime hay fever symptoms of sneezing, nasal congestion and runny noses.
Next up is vitamin C which is an anti-oxidant. Found in broccoli, red berries, oranges, citrus fruit and peppers, immune system supporting vitamin C has an anti-histamine effect and can reduce histamine levels. I found this interesting because in summer my daughter could happily live off strawberries and peppers. Children who consume a lot of vitamin C tend to have fewer hay fever symptoms. You can guess what I will be loading their packed lunches up with this summer!
In our household we do try to have a varied diet and to be honest, don’t often think of it in terms of specific vitamins. When I think of vitamins, the ones above and also b vitamins probably spring to mind first. However this article has started me to think about things more specifically.
Anyone else remember being told that carrots would help you see in the dark! Well they can also help with hay fever. Carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes are all big favourites in our house and brilliant sources of beta-carotene. Our body needs beta-carotene to make vitamin A. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A and helps to protect cells from damage. Known to boost our immune system, this anti-oxidant also helps eye health, boosts memory and is great for healthy mucous membranes.
Gut bacteria has been spoken about a lot over the last year. Given that over 3/4 of our immune cells can be found in our digestive tract, it will come as no surprise that hay fever sufferers can improve symptoms by taking live gut bacteria supplements. Our household takes probiotics daily and favourite brands include Symprove, Biokult and Renewlife.
Quercetin is an anti-allergic phytonutrient and perhaps not one you always hear about. Found naturally in fruit and vegetables, its antioxidant properties are known for their inflammation and histamines reducing benefits. Key quercetin produce include apples, berries, grapes, red wine, green tea, garlic and broccoli. Brands like Terranova also make Quercetin supplements.
Lifestyle changes to improve hay fever
It is not just dietary changes that can help. Simple lifestyle adjustments can help give relief and improve your hay fever symptoms too.
- Keep an eye of the daily pollen forecasts. I have set up an allergy tracker alert on my mobile via The Weather Channel. It lets me know what the pollen count is for tree, grass or weeds. Expect the pollen count to be lower on wet and colder days and higher on dry and warmer days
- When you are out and about, wearing sunglasses can help keep pollen from getting into your eyes. Also try a balm around your nostrils to trap the pollen. I like to use Haymax
- Vacuum daily and ensure your cleaner has a HEPA filter and dust using a damp cloth
- Keep windows shut first thing in the morning and from about 4pm in the afternoon onwards. This is when the pollen counts are at their highest
- Our air purifier was one of the best additions to our home last year! We mainly use it in the bedrooms and love to use the app to find out real-time air quality!
- Don’t forget to keep your windows shut in the car while you are out and about. Invest in a pollen filter for car
- Shower at the end of the day to wash off any pollen, especially your hair and exposed areas of your body. Always change into fresh clothes afterwards
- Let someone else cut the grass
- As tempting as it is to take advantage of the warm drying conditions, try to avoid drying clothes and bedding outside on your washing line. This will only bring the pollen into your home and the area you sleep. Some tumble dryers have a function to remove unpleasant smells, microscopic allergens, harmful bacteria and microbes
Look out for my next post looking at some great natural supplements to help keep your hayfever symptoms at bay!
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