Whether you live in the town or the country, summertime can mean the misery of hay fever symptoms and that runny, itchy and/or congested nose as well as sneezing and itchy eyes.
Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen, the name given to the fine powder produced by plants, trees or flowers to fertilize other plants, trees or flowers of the same species. A high pollen count is a count above 50. There is even recent evidence linking climate change
with increasingly long and severe allergy seasons.
There are three different pollen allergies
1. Grass pollen is the most common usually affecting sufferers from late spring to early summer.
2. Tree pollen is another and most likely during springtime.
3. Weed pollen is the third pollen allergy and includes nettles and other wild flowers. This covers a longer period from early spring to early autumn as they have a longer pollination time.
Apart from those pollen causes, hay fever can also be triggered by fungal or mold spores, dust mites, pet dander or cockroaches.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
If you are allergic it is because your immune system reacts to the particular pollen. Cells on the lining of your nose and eyes release histamine (and other natural chemicals) when they come into contact with pollen, causing inflammation in the nose and eyes as well as sometime affecting the sinuses and the throat. Less common symptoms include the loss of smell, face pain, sweats and headaches. If you are already an asthma sufferer, your symptoms may get worse during the hay fever season. Even though the word fever appears in the name, a fever is not one of the symptoms.
While many people will reach for over-the-counter antihistamine nasal sprays
or medications, others are rightly trying to avoid adding too many toxic chemicals to their systems and look for alternative and more natural solutions.
How can you treat hay fever naturally?
- There is an homeopathic treatment called Sinol-M which is a hot pepper nose spray that is said to be safe and very effective at easing allergic symptoms.
- If you are allergic to the pollen of your local weeds and wild flowers, one solution is to start taking a spoonful of local raw honey at least two months before the start of the hay fever season. This acts as a natural immunization.
- Nasal saline washouts are available from a pharmacy and comprises a delivery system such as a squeezable plastic bottle containing saline (salt water) connected to a tube inserted into the nose. More sophisticated devices (with pumps to control the pressure of the liquid) are also available. For most benefit, washouts should be used daily to clear any pollen from the nose.
- Placing 4 to 5 grains of cayenne pepper in each nostril and breathing will help to clear your nose and your head. For additional help, drink a little cayenne pepper in a glass of warm filtered water.
- Drink a daily couple of glasses of pure filtered water with some natural salt added as an antihistamine.
- Quercitin is a natural allergy reliever and an antioxidant that is part of the family of water-soluble plant substances called flavonoids. There are also quercetin-rich foods (such as apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, capers and black tea) which should be included in your diet to prevent histamine release. Quercetin is also available in supplement form – a daily dose for hay fever is 200 to 400 mg.
Some prevention suggestions
- The worst time of the day for high pollen is first thing in the morning, so stay indoors as much as possible and keep windows and doors shut at this time of the day.
- Vaseline or a natural version can be smeared on the nostril entrances to prevent pollen getting into your nose.
- Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after being outdoors because pollen will cling to all those areas.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses when you are outdoors.
- Keep vehicle windows closed and consider buying a pollen filter for the air vents in your car. These should be changed at every service.
- Strengthen your immune system by eliminating or limiting sugars and grains from your diet.
- Regular exercise is an important tool to help prevent allergies from forming in the first place.
- Include plenty of animal-based omega-3 fat in your diet. Both fish oil and krill oil will help reduce both allergic and inflammatory response.
- Taking a high quality probiotic with good bacteria may help lower levels of an antibody that produces allergy symptoms while raising levels of a different antibody, called IgG, that may play a protective role against allergic reactions.
- Be careful to avoid getting dehydrated by drinking plenty of water every day – a good indication is that your urine should be the palest of yellow.
- Consider an air purifier for your home to help remove airborne allergens.
- Avoid using using window fans when pollen levels are high. Pollen levels are also worse on dry or windy days.
- If you have to work outdoors during the pollen season, wearing a mask might be helpful.
- If you like to hang your laundry outside to dry, you may want to avoid this during allergy season as spores and pollen can cling to fabric and end up right next to your body, triggering symptoms.
- Avoid chlorinated pools and hot tubs if you have allergies or asthma as these have been shown to increase respiratory problems and allergies.
There are a couple of methods to use when hay fever seriously affects quality of life
The first is subcutaneous immunotherapy
using a series of injections of the allergic pollen into the tissue just under the skin so that your immune system will become de-sensitized to the pollen. This means that the allergic response that your body mounts when it is exposed to the pollen in the future is reduced to improve your symptoms.
The second is sublingual immunotherapy
where the pollen is placed under the tongue in tablet form once a day. It is important to commence the treatment at least four months before the start of the pollen season and to continue it for up to three years.
As you can see, with some experimentation, it is possible to prevent or lessen the discomfort and symptoms of hay fever in a more natural way.