Hay fever is an extremely common allergy which affects 20% of people at some time in their lives. This is annoying at least and debilitating at worst and can interfere with daily activities and sleep patterns, and should not be taken lightly. It is a form of allergic rhinitis, which basically means inflammation of the mucus membranes of the nose caused by allergy. For most people, hay fever gets better with age, but recently the pollen count has been so high that people are suffering who have never had it before. I am one of these. Bugger. But I will not be beaten.
Symptoms: These range from sneezing, runny nose, itching eyes, itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, and a cough cause by mucus dripping down the back of the throat from the nose. However, less commonly one may get impaired sense of smell, facial pain caused by inflamed sinuses, headaches, earache and tiredness. Asthma can also be caused and exacerbated by hay fever and these symptoms include tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Always have your inhaler with you.
Causes: The most common cause of hay fever is pollen; from trees (especially birch) – predominantly in the spring, grasses – end of spring and beginning of summer , and weeds (such as docks and nettles) – from spring to autumn. The pollen is breathed in or gets into the eyes and it is the proteins in the pollen which cause the problems. Hay fever symptoms usually begin when the pollen count is over 50 and is usually given as part of the weather forecast during the spring and summer months. The pollen forecast is usually given as:
- low: fewer than 30 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
- moderate: 30-49 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
- high: 50-149 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
- very high: 150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
The reason that you have an allergic reaction is that your body over-reacts to something it perceives as a threat. In hay fever, the threat is pollen. Your immune system then behaves as though it were being attacked by a virus and acts accordingly by releasing chemicals which produce the runny eyes and nose in an attempt to flush out the enemy.. The
Weather: Weather also plays its part and you can limit exposure by understanding how it works. On humid and windy days, pollen spreads easily. On rainy days, pollen may be cleared from the air, causing pollen levels to fall. During their pollen season, plants release pollen early in the morning. As the day gets warmer and more flowers open, pollen levels rise. On sunny days, the pollen count is highest in the early evening.
Treatment: Standard Medical
There is no immediate cure for hay fever. More often than not, you can get a remedy over the counter from your pharmacist to relieve the symptoms, but if they persist or seem unusually severe, you should consult your doctor, particularly asthmatics and those with a history of sinus problems of ear infections.
Antihistamines are the first line of defence and new and improved versions are being developed all the time. These help to prevent an allergic reaction from happening in the first place. Once symptoms have set in you may require corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation and swelling. There is also a treatment called immunotherapy where one is exposed to small amounts of pollen over time in order to build up the immune response
There are lots of alternatives to drugs that can help hay fever, although if you are in danger from asthma, for example, don’t muck about – asthma kills people. However, here are some things that can help. Diet: Allergies of any kind are an auto-immune problem so the first thing to do is strengthen your immune system and optimize your body’s natural defences.
* Plenty of Vitamin C and garlic which contain flavonoids which are natural anti-histamines. Eat as much raw or lightly cooked food as possible.
* Eat plenty of local honey, starting a few months before pollen season. This follows the immunotherapy course as it desensitized the body to local pollens.
* Ditto nettles. Nettles can be a significant allergen so starting eating them as soon as they appear in the spring, either steamed as a vegetable or in nettle soup.
* Drink lots of water. Chamomile tea contains bisabol and chamazulene which are anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine. Green tea contains catechins which are powerful anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory and consequently an immune booster.
* Sterimar nasal spray made of seawater can be used to flush out the nasal passages
* The homeopathic remedy Sabadilla Pollenna, if taken as soon as symptoms appear, can offer relief
Practical Steps: Wraparound sunglasses can help to keep pollen out of your eyes An air purifier can help to remove pollen, dust and other allergens from your home or office Dehumidifiers and ionizers in the home help some people Get someone else to mow the lawn Make use of air conditioning in your car Shower and wash your hair when you get in, especially after being in the countryside
Do not despair, my little chums, you can beat this, slowly but surely.