Hay fever season is well and truly here. Sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose? We spoke to the experts to find out the best hay fever cures out there...
Experiencing the incurable tickle at the back of your throat? Feeling the unbridled fear when you realise you have no tissues on you on the regular? Starting to hate summer by default? Welcome to the life of a hay fever sufferer.
One in five of us suffer from hay fever in the UK. Hay fever is at its worst from May onwards when the UK grass pollen season starts, which affects 95 per cent of hay fever sufferers and runs until July.
If you are one of the whopping 95 per cent, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything to know from symptoms and treatments to natural hay fever remedies.
Hay fever symptoms
Symptoms include a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, the sensation of having mucus at the back of your throat, coughing, tiredness, headaches (yes, hay fever can give you headaches) and a general feeling of being miserable.
True hayfever is seasonal, and only occurs at specific times of the year,’ explains Amena Warner, National Nurse Advisor for Allergy UK. ‘Symptoms usually start at the beginning of April or May, when it peaks, then decreases by the end of July, beginning of August, depending on weather patterns.’
Are you sat there thinking, do I have hay fever, or am I just suffering with a cold? Well, the easiest way to tell the difference between hayfever and a common cold is through your mucus. With hayfever, the mucus is usually clear and colourless and the nose feels itchy. With a common cold, the nasal discharge can be green. You can also get a temperature with a cold.
Warner elaborates, ‘In the absence of a temperature, no green discharge and if its within hayfever season, this is usually indicative of an allergy.’
Now, whilst there’s no definitive cure for hay fever, but we’ve rounded up some of the best hay fever treatments to relieve symptoms, including top tips from leading allergy expert Dr Jean Emberlin, Director of Pollen UK.
Hay fever treatment and hay fever remedies
Available as hay fever tablets or nasal sprays, antihistamines work by blocking the action of the chemical histamine, which is released by the body in the hay fever allergic reaction. Antihistamines can either be taken as a preventative treatment on days when you know there’s going to be a high pollen count, or as needed when you first notice you’re developing symptoms.
Priced at £5.49, available at Boots
Corticosteroid nasal sprays and drops
These steroid treatments are most effective if you start taking them a couple of weeks before symptoms start. If you have a big event coming up, such as a wedding or holiday, your GP might prescribe a short course of corticosteroids to help control the symptoms during that time.
If your hay fever is causing a blocked nose, nasal decongestants such as Care Decongestant Tablets, £2.09, can be useful as they have an anti-inflammatory effect, helping to reduce the swelling of blood vessels in the nose.
Sudafed Decongestant Tablets
Priced at £3.85, available at Boots
Cellulose powder nasal spray
All of the remedies above can have mild side effects, but a natural cellulose powder spray such as Care Allergy Defence, £5.99, has no side effects and is non-drowsy. When sprayed into the nose, it forms a protective gel layer, which acts as a barrier to allergens. It should be used at least three times a day, but can be used as often as needed.
Priced £2.99, available at Amazon
To help treat red, itchy eyes, use drops such as Opticrom Single Dose Eye Drops, £7.99 (pack of 20 x 0.3ml) or Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops, £4.70 (3ml).
Priced at £7.49, available at Holland & Barrett
Rub the base of your nose with a nasal balm to help trap pollen before it enters your body. It’s invisible and most are non greasy, so you don’t end up with a shiny rim around your nostrils
Priced at £7.29, available at Holland & Barrett
Have a spoonful of honey
It’s sounds counter-intuitive, but honey can desensitise your body to other pollens and reduce hay fever symptoms. It also happens to be the most delicious remedy out of all the choices. Try an unprocessed honey, like Manuka, to see the best benefits.
This naturally occurring pigment can be found in foods such as carrots, apricots, pumpkin, sweet potato and spinach and acts as a powerful antioxidant to help reduce inflammation and fortify your immune system.
Brew a cuppa
Chamomile tea is known to relieve inflammation in your airways. Not only is chamomile an antioxidant with an antihistamine effect, it’s also a source of flavonoids, which help strengthen your nasal membranes to prevent irritating particles, like pollen, from entering your bloodstream.
Omega fatty acids contained in fish are important for a healthy immune system. The first phase of an immune reaction is an inflammatory reaction – and fish oil is an anti-inflammatory. Not only that, it’s a great booster for your immune system.
Clear out your fridge
A lot of foods can help reduce hay fever symptoms, but a lot of them can exacerbate the situation. Ditch dairy (you can get calcium another way) because it over stimulates your glands and try to avoid tomatoes, which, although are great antioxidants are also naturally high in histamines.
Shower at night
Can hay fever make you tired and puffy? Can it ever. If you wash your hair in the morning, switch it to night-time. This will get rid of any pollen that’s found its way into your hair, so it won’t end up on your pillow and wreak havoc while you’re sleeping. Puffy morning eyes, be gone. Try this in tandem with this one workout that can actually help you sleep better and you’ll be sorted.
Put down the bubbly
We know it’s cruel, especially during summer, but drinking alcohol worsens symptoms. In fact, research from a team of Danish experts found that drinking alcohol increases the chance of an attack by three percent. If you can’t bear it, alternate with glasses of water.
Just two raw cloves a day will reduce excess catarrh (AKA a stuffy nose). It also contains antioxidants that act as super antihistamines. Apologise to the office in advance.
Beware of your washing line
Don’t hang washing outside on high pollen count days. The pollen will collect on your clothes and bedding and could trigger symptoms.
Talk to your GP or pharmacist to see which treatments are best for you.