Top Tips For Hay Fever Sufferers 2020!
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
As a fellow sufferer of hay fever here in Cardiff, I can contest on how debilitating allergies can be. Eyes so itchy you want to scratch them with a fork. That horrible extra itch at the back of your throat that can drive you crazy or the constant sneezing that is enough to give you a six-pack (a bonus I guess). Ad to that, the tiredness and poor sleep that can result from those innocent plant particles with fangs. I’m hoping I can describe what the cause of hay fever is and the ways to ease the symptoms that lead us to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on over the counter medications.
Hay fever also known as allergic rhinitis is a swift and acute reaction to pollen present in the atmosphere. Mold spores and many other particle types that float in the air are responsible for the misery caused every year. When pollen contacts the nasal cavity or eyes the body’s immune system overreacts to cause the many unpleasant symptoms of hay fever. Tress, grass, and weeds produce the wind pollinating allergens that people become sensitive to. In many cases people with asthma and eczema also have hay fever, this is known as “the atopic triad”.
Hay fever is seasonal for most people during late March to early September, some people get allergies all year round, but the pollen count is higher between these months. “in 2017, 31% of adults in the UK self-reported that they experienced hay fever in the past 12 months”. So hay fever is on the rise, big time!
What does hay fever feel like?
Hay fever can strike at any age, I was struck in my early teens and I do mean struck (like a lightning bolt). I was wheezing and gasping for air so my GP gave me an asthma pump for the first few years. I had never had asthma or breathing problems before, but that first summer of hell triggered an acute reaction. I would wake up with my eyelids stuck together in the mornings as they would leek so much and dry intermittently causing a nasty mucous-like substance to tightly glue my eyes shut. Nice aye! My eyes would burn and scratch making cycling and generally enjoying the school summer holidays impossible. I would be extremely tired and fatigued also. The inflammation makes your body work harder and really, it was like having a three month cold. My nostrils would start off itchy and scratchy and over the course of a week, my sinuses would just be completely blocked. The morning cleanouts were never pleasant! Luckily over the last 20 years, my hayfever has slowly got better over time. I’ll have a few weeks where it is unpleasant but it does improve quite quickly. So the good news is you can grow out of it over time. Scientists believe that more people are getting hay fever now due to the increase in the pollen count. Also, they believe we are exposed to far fewer allergins than ever before. As our cleaning technology and sanitary devices are killing more bacteria and viruses we are less immune to outside pollutants. Summers are also getting longer and warmer which means the hay fever season is increasing in length too. The more pollen there is, the increased likelihood that someone will become allergic to pollen. If you do not have asthma or eczema then your chances are much lower. Being a chiropractor in the busy city of Cardiff I have to manage my hay fever or my patient's treatment suffers. I hope the following can help you as it has me.
What can I do to help manage my hay fever?
Let's break it down.
Medication: There are many drugs that help reduce
hay fever symptoms. Cetirizine and loratadine are the most common antihistamine (rewinds the reaction to pollen) that you can buy over the counter, They are great for mild to moderate cases of hay fever. Stronger medications can be prescribed by your GP. These drugs are the second generation and do not normally cause drowsiness which was a problem with first-generation antihistamines along with
other side effects. A corticosteroid nasal spray can also work wonders. They can be bought without a prescription and are generally known to be safe. Always make sure it is not going to react with any other medications you may be taking or any medical conditions that could cause issues also.
Triamcinolone (steroid) injection: This is a slow-release medication for people who’s conservative management is not working.
“Leukotriene modifier. Montelukast (Singulair) is a prescription tablet taken to block the action of leukotrienes — immune system chemicals that cause allergy symptoms such as excess mucus production. It's especially effective in treating allergy-induced asthma. It's often used when nasal sprays can't be tolerated or for mild asthma.”
Immunotherapy: Also known as allergy shots. Injections of small amounts of allergens are given over 3 years. This helps the immune system to build up a tolerance helping to stop hay fever altogether. This is used when tablets or nasal sprays are not working.
Neti pot: Think of this as nasal and sinus irrigation. A saline solution is put up one nostril and comes out the other side effectively clearing congestion and allergies. I have not tried this as the idea terrifies me! But many people say it helps no end.
Quit the big 3: Dairy, wheat, and eggs. It is believed that dairy, eggs, and wheat cause inflammation, and by taking these out of your diet will eliminate hay fever. I have tried this myself and it does help a lot.
Local honey and honeycomb: It is believed that local honey can reduce symptoms being a natural antihistamine. But the science is still up in the air. Worth a try though as it might work for you. Make sure it's local!
The Vaseline and cotton bud trick. For me, this is the cheapest and most effective. Dip the cotton bud into the vaseline and coat the inside of your nostrils both sides as high as you can go. Also, coat the outsides of the nostrils and the top of the lips. Lastly, smear a little over the eyelashes and upper and lower eyelids. This method traps the pollen reducing symptoms greatly. Apply up to 4x a day.
Stay clean: If you go out for the day make sure to have a shower straight away and wash those clothes. Pollen can be dispersed in the air in the home so keeping it at bay prevents more in the home. Also, try and dry your clothes inside so as not to get more pollen in the house and into your sinuses.
Keep the windows shut: Keep your windows shut when you can, especially at night. Pollen starts to fall as the sun goes down. To get a better sleep keeping the windows shut is essential.
Keep an eye on the forecast: Stay up to date of the pollen forecast and try and work your life around that. If you know the pollen count is going to be high or low then you can plan life better.
Exercise and water: Always keep hydrated as it will pick you up when you are feeling low. Exercise has the same effect you just have to pick yourself up to do it. Both are great for the immune system.
Try and get good sleep: Many restless nights can be had from hay fever. If you have had a bad night's sleep, have a 20-minute power nap, it will recharge you. If you follow all of this advice it should have a positive effect on sleep.
Eat well: Avoid processed foods and sugar, these ads to inflammation that could make your hay fever symptoms worse. Ginger, oranges, apples, seeds, and garden herbs will help to keep the inflammation down.
Avoid the itch! It’s very easy to scratch itchy eyes, it actually feels great to itch them but the aftermath is not worth it. It can cause redness, dry skin, and blisters. The best thing to do is close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and describe the sensation in your mind. This is a mindfulness exercise that is not particularly easy but can be done with practice. It normally takes 5 minutes and the desire to itching goes away. You can also rinse your eyes with cold water to help soothe but this does often lead to a scratching session so be careful!
See your GP: you don’t have to suffer in silence. If your symptoms are too much to manage then your GP is at hand to help you. Seeing as 1 in 4 people get hay fever your GP might now what it is like themselves.
Remember to start taking medication two months before the hay fever season. This will prime your system and make life more bearable during the summer months. If you stick to a hay fever management routing then life can continue as normal. Always check what you are taking, there are many alternative medicines that claim to cure hay fever when in fact can be detrimental to your health.
Stay healthy and safe!