Hay Fever – Know Your Enemy

It’s approaching that Summer/Autumn transitionary stage that no one is particularly fond of due to the weather that can never seem to make up it’s mind.

It’s approaching that Summer/Autumn transitionary stage that no one is particularly fond of due to the weather that can never seem to make up it’s mind. There is one thing more annoying than the undecided weather at this time of year though for some of us, and that, is hay fever. Cue itchy, swollen eyes, a runny nose, very unattractive sneezing and often a sore throat – well, how else would you like to say goodbye the summer?

Okay, so I think I’ve got it, but what exactly is hay fever?
Having hay fever means that you’re allergic to pollen from grasses, spores, flowers, weeds or trees, which are primarily effective in the spring/summer period. Hay fever is basically your immune system overreacting to the usually harmless allergens that these pollens produce, causing an allergic rhinitis (inflammation to the nose) and histamine to be released from cells in the mouth, nose and eyes.
What are the symptoms?
It all depends on the individual. Hay fever sufferers can experience different symptoms at different times of the year, depending on which pollens they’re allergic to. However, symptoms do tend to follow the expected lines of:
♣ Itchy eyes
♣ Watery eyes
♣ Swelling to the eyes
♣ Blocked or runny nose
♣ Sneezing
♣ Sore throat/itchy palate
♣ Headaches
How do I know which pollen I’m allergic to?
If you’re finding that your symptoms are worse in April/May, and you’ve already been suffering for months, its likely that it’s birch, ash or oak pollen which affects you most.
If it’s mid summer (May-August) when you can’t stop the sneezes, then grass pollen is the main culprit – this is the case for over half of hay fever sufferers.
You could be one of the really unlucky people however, that still have watery eyes come Autumn, right through to November. If this is you, watch out for weeds and nettles.
What can I do to stop or prevent me from turning into this sneezy, itchy mess?
The most common relief tends to be anti-histamine tablets, or allergy relief such as Piriton or Benadryl. You can get 7 day tablets, or more generalised allergy tablets which you can take as and when. These also come in syrup form if you’re one of those people that can’t handle swallowing pills too well.
Other cures come in the form of eye drops, or nasal sprays. 
It’s just a case of finding what works best for you. Always take sunglasses out with you, as this should help prevent the pollen from irritating your eyes, or if that fails at least no one can see that you have swollen, watery mouse eyes underneath those attractive shades. Applying some vaseline to the inside of your nose can help stop pollen creeping up there, but no, it doesn’t feel comfortable to have petroleum jelly up your nose either. 
Air conditioning in the car, rather than windows down is another avoidance technique. Similarly, don’t hang washing outside as the pollen will hide in your clothes and hit you when you least expect it. Sneaky.
If all else is failing, it may be worth trying a laser therapy machine, such as Lloyds pharmacy hay fever reliever – this works ‘by using phototherapy of two wavelengths. One wavelength promotes increased blood flow circulation and the second wavelength (red light therapy) suppresses the cells that release histamine and reduces inflammation, thereby relieving the irritating symptoms of hay fever.’ As well as this Lloyds also do an air purifier. 
An extreme sufferer may want to try the steroid tablets or injections that have been more recently introduced, but it’s debatable if the side effects of these are worth the short term pleasantry.
Personally, I have found that arming myself with a combination of ALL of these remedies (excluding steroids) seems to keep my hay fever controllable. Admittedly it’s pricey, but it also saves me scratching my eyes and sniffling for hours – worth it in my opinion.
Any long term relief?
Unfortunately, it’s rare to find a long term cure. More natural remedies such as a teaspoon of local honey a day, or odourless garlic tablets (don’t worry – they don’t stink!) are supposed to build up the immune system against hay fever, but whether these wives tales work is a different story. Likewise with acupuncture, onions and hypnosis – the list is endless. Luckily though, there is the hope that some people ‘grow out’ of hay fever. Until then, check the pollen count and try your best to survive the summer. Hay fever tends to run in cycles, so you may suffer for a few years, get some relief for a while and then BAM, one day it’s back. Sadly, it’s just something 20% of us in England have to deal with.