Your hay fever survival plan

Spring is here and for many people that means the arrival of the dreaded seasonal sniffles. Here are our top tips for combating hay fever

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, tends to be caused by the airborne pollen from flowers, trees, weeds and grasses. Many people are finding that their hay fever symptoms are arriving earlier and earlier each year with higher pollen counts.

“We suspect this could be due to climate change or pollution increase,” says James Hamill, master beekeeper and maker of HayfeGUARD Local Honey (www.hayfeguard.co.uk). “Some people get hay fever early in life, some later and some not at all. When some people inhale airborne pollen their bodies overreact around the 25 per cent saturation point, producing mucus and narrowing the airways in an attempt to block pollen from entering the body.”

“Use an effective drug-free organic allergen barrier balm around your nostrils to trap allergens before they enter the body,” suggests Max Wiseberg. “They are non-drowsy so won’t affect your performance at work or school.”

“Common symptoms are sneezing and nasal congestion, itchy, puffy or watery eyes, skin rashes, runny nose, headaches or feeling groggy,” says Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at SuperfoodUK.com. “Those with conditions like asthma may also find their breathing is reduced if they suffer from hay fever.”

“For many hay fever sufferers, the annual arrival of symptoms is an unwelcome irritation, but for others, it can be truly debilitating,” adds Max Wiseberg, airborne allergies expert and creator of the HayMax organic allergen barrier balm (haymax.biz). “Poor concentration at school and time off work are more commonplace than many realise.”

According to an Allergy UK poll, 15 per cent of hay fever sufferers have had symptoms so bad that they were signed off sick, and a second Allergy UK poll revealed that 51 per cent of people think that special allowance should be made for hay fever sufferers in exams.

“If in an office or classroom environment, a HEPA air filter may be beneficial to sufferers,” suggests Max Wiseberg.

“As hay fever is on the increase in the UK, it’s important that schools and workplaces understand the full impact of this allergy so that they are supported and not disadvantaged during the peak summer months,” says Max.

Here are some tips for combating hay fever naturally.

Increase your antioxidant intake

“Eat lots of berries and other fruits high in antioxidants and vitamin C,” says Shona, “such as pomegranates, plums and cherries (unless these are what you are allergic to!) Try to eat a good serving of one of these every day. Vitamin C and flavonoids may function as natural antihistamines. The flavonoid quercetin is thought to be a particularly good natural antihistamine – some of the richest sources include onions, apples (especially the skin), cherries, berries, pineapple and cabbage.”

Counter inflammation

“Some foods are more prone to causing inflammation than others,” explains Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist with A.Vogel (www.avogel.co.uk). “Minimising their place in your life this summer and prioritising anti-inflammatory foods instead will make every meal a mini treatment. Vegan foods that counter inflammation include: carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, mangos, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, and pears.” Cook with olive oil and use flaxseed oil, hemp oil, walnut oil and pumpkinseed oil as dressings or in recipes that don’t involve heat.

Get some help from Nature

“Nature handily provides us with the cures for some of the problems it causes us, so try out the herbs that can get you through the pollen season with bright eyes and a clear nose,” says Alison. “Try a homeopathic remedy that can reduce eye, nose and chest symptoms without causing drowsiness. The herb Luffa is excellent at reducing hay fever-type reactions in the nose, eyes and throat. It works quickly and doesn’t become less effective if you use it long-term. It is not contraindicated with any medication, which is handy in making it appropriate for a wide range of sufferers. It can be found as a tincture, a tablet and a nasal spray. You could also try a nettle tincture, which will reduce histamine reactions.”

Eat some local honey

Master beekeeper James Hamill recommends eating local UK pollen or local raw, unheated UK wildflower honey. He says: “Wildflower honey will contain a larger variety of pollen, so you have a higher chance of coming in contain with the pollen your body does not like. Read the label: if it’s not UK pollen or UK honey it won’t help. Manuka will not work as it’s from New Zealand so the pollen is local to New Zealand only. Only a small teaspoon of local honey a day is needed to build up a natural immunity over time.”

Plan ahead

Planning ahead is an essential tip for all hay fever sufferers. “Get used to checking the pollen count on a daily basis so that you can plan your day,” advises Chris Michael, director of leading air purifier specialist Meaco. “Also plan outdoor activities after any rain as the pollen count is lower after a shower.” Keeping on top of your cleaning schedule is also important. “Spring clean the house before spring so that you are not sneezing and suffering whilst disturbing dust,” says Chris. “Clean mould in the bathroom regularly to avoid the spread of mould spores. Also ensure you have good ventilation in the bathroom and kitchen to remove excess moisture to avoid damp. Lower damp levels mean less mould spores and dust mites. If necessary buy a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels.”

Try a natural nasal spray

“There are many products that help to alleviate the symptoms of hay fever,” says Martin Last, a consultant with MPL Marketing Services. “One approach is to try and prevent hay fever from occurring in the first place and the use of a commonly used natural sweetener, xylitol, may be one such approach. Xylitol, when presented in a nasal spray format with saline solution has been effectively used to help prevent the onslaught of hay fever. The spray works with a dual action, the saline washing the nasal passages, whilst the xylitol, being a sticky sweetener, coats the inside nasal passages forming a barrier, thus preventing airborne pollutants from irritating the nose. By regularly spraying the nasal passageways this may help prevent hay fever before it starts.”

Rethink your diet

“It may be advisable to reduce or eliminate dairy foods, sugary foods, alcohol and ‘white’ carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta, even if you don’t think any of these are causing an allergic reaction,” says Shona. “These types of foods can increase the production of mucus in the sinuses (and lungs) and therefore can worsen the problem. If you decide to cut out a food group, it is advisable to see a nutritionist or nutritional therapist for a food programme to ensure you are not missing out on any nutrients.”

Supportive supplements

“In terms of supplements, the following may be helpful,” says Shona Wilkinson. “They can be found as individual supplements or in combinations together with other supportive nutrients. They should be taken for at least two to four weeks before judging whether or not they will help.”

  • Quercetin (as mentioned above, as contained in apples and onions) and vitamin C
  • Bromelain (an extract of pineapple – often used together with quercetin)
  • Nettle root
  • Pycnogenol (pine bark extract) or grapeseed extract
  • Citrus bioflavonoids

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