Before I became pregnant with Josh, I hadn’t had the slightest symptom of hay fever. People who do not have hay fever genuinely do not know the woe it causes you. It is utterly miserable.
For me, it started at around 7 months pregnant, and it’s never gone away. Most hay fever “victims” have had it since childhood. However, hay fever can develop when you are much older and once triggered, can cause an immune reaction. Allergy specialist, Professor Stephen Durham says:
There’s some evidence that pollution exacerbates [hay fever] and you’ve also got the hygiene hypothesis – that our bodies aren’t as strong because we aren’t exposed to infections when we are small children that our systems rebel against.
Hay fever can strike you at any time and starts with signs/symptoms, which can include:
- A runny nose and nasal congestion. I particularly like the fact that I personally get one nostril wholly blocked, so I am unable to breathe. Sounding like an asthmatic donkey ‘hee-hawing’ on one side yet the other drips like a tap. Sometimes when working, I am forced to wedge as much kitchen roll into the gushing orifice as humanly possible, which is always a great look for those in the close vicinity to witness
- Extremely watery and itchy eyes which can lead to very sore red eyes (not to be confused with pink eye of course)
- Sneezing. And then sneezing some more and sometimes sneezing so much you start to sweat. Beard does this often, and so far we have had 23 consecutive sneezes on record. Not quite enough to beat the current world record of 976 days though
- Cough – this is when you know you have it bad. A dry razor blade throat kind of cough that seems to occur in the morning, early evening or just around the time of a summer shower
- An itchy, irritated nose that no matter how much you rub it, that itch won’t go away! In fact, it just makes you snot more and makes your nose get more and more red which will eventually develop into some hideous nose sore, woohoo!!!
- My favourite – the roof of your mouth and throat itching. It’s truly horrific! How can you itch a throat for goodness sake?!
- A heavy feeling in your head spreading to pinpoint sinus pain, causing you to feel spaced out and unable to concentrate. Basically, you feel as if your entire brain is going to explode from snotty pollinated liquid juice at any given moment
- Fatigue – not only because you are exhausted from relentlessly blowing your nose and sneezing, but because when your body notices the stream of pollen in your blood, it sends out the natural histamine army to attack it. This puts pressure on your nervous system that can then cause you to have a restless nights sleep whilst you either a. continue to battle the evening effects of hay fever or b. your body works harder to recoup the lost histamine levels in trying to attack the pollen to prevent further allergens. Basically, you’re fecked.
So what can you do about it? As a family, we all suffer from hay fever, so we have compiled a list of all the things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms:
Of course, the main thing to consider is antihistamine tablets (some are available in liquid form), and there are THREE varying types you can find – the top two being the most common:
– Loratadine (which you may know as Clarityn or something similar) is one of the most common forms of antihistamine that doesn’t cause drowsiness and that, in general, is adequate for most people. It’s the excellent all-rounder for those with allergies and the primary drug found in many over the counter medications that do not carry a brand name. Sainsburys own label hay fever tablets are a good example at a snip of the price.
– Cetirizine (known as Benadryl) is a second-generation antihistamine that can cause minor drowsiness but can be useful for those suffering from symptoms at night, preventing sleep. Like Loratadine, cheaper, non-branded medications can include Boots own label hay fever tablets.
– Chlorphenamine (which you may know as Piriton) is one of the first generations of antihistamines and actually one of the weakest. However, it is used to treat most forms of allergies (including those in children) and not limited to pet hair, insect bites, conjunctivitis and itching caused by chickenpox etc. It IS a drowsy medication (although alternative non-drowsy options have been developed for younger children) so precaution should be taken.
Firstly, what’s the real difference? What’s the best one for you?
There lies the problem. You may have tried one, and it hasn’t helped. You may have tried one particular brand, and that may have helped, but another brand didn’t. Herein is the nature of the beast. Pollen counts vary from month to month/year to year, and individual allergen levels also vary. The first course of action is to speak to your pharmacist so they can give advice and suggest the best treatments (such as those above) based on your symptoms and medical history. They can also recommend additional therapies such as:
- Antihistamine Eye Drops, which are liquid histamines that effectively soothe dry, itchy, sore, swollen eyes and “block” further allergies from entering the body. There are a plethora on the market, and your pharmacist can recommend ones suitable for you
- Nasal sprays/Sinus Relief. Just like eye drops, they offer the exact same type of resistance and remedy but are a less concentrated mist of histamine providing instant relief directly up into your nostrils
- Throat Spray; the genius way of soothing that itchy roof of mouth/throat symptom, however, you will need to use this throughout the day to continue relief
- Plug-in Decongestants release a gentle vapour that can ease your respiratory symptoms at night making them more bearable in the morning
We’ve discussed everything you can purchase over the counter that a pharmacist will recommend, but what about other remedies that may help, including homoeopathic and alternative options…
- Haymax – adding a blob of Barrier Balm around your nostrils prevents the little pollen blighters getting in, which is especially handy if you have all the windows open and your other half decides to cut the grass
- Local Honey – the clue behind this “magic cure” is it must be local honey. The evidence is in the title; honey that is produced as close to where you live as humanly possible. Fight pollen with its own nectar by adding to hot water and herbal teas, spreading on toast or downing a dollop on a teaspoon each morning
- Nettle & Chamomile Herbal Tea – Both nettle and chamomile are said to have a whole host of healing and soothing powers and a hot cuppa at bedtime is supposed to do the trick
- Natural Organic Tablets – organic control can sometimes be the best, and a blend of natural homoeopathic tablets is kinder to your body too
- Cold Tea Bags – place chilled tea bags on the eyes to sooth
- Vitamin C – up your dose of Vit C, and you could find yourself fighting fit. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and a natural decongestant which is perfect if your symptoms include a blocked or runny nose
- Garlic & Onions – both of these allium vegetables contain something called Quercetin which promotes natural allergy relief in the body and boosts the immune system; simply add more of it to your diet
- Chilli’s & Hot Peppers – virtually the same as garlic and onion, except these capsicum varieties produce something called capsaicin which is an active component that opens your airways to make breathing that little bit easier
- Acupuncture – the ancient Chinese medicine of acupuncture has been said to reduce hay fever symptoms dramatically when carried out by a trained practitioner. However, you will need to plan for this sort of treatment as you will require 4-6 treatments before your hay fever symptoms usually begin
- Reflexology – simply by placing pressure on your hand several times is said to stimulate the body into releasing histamine to fight the hay fever attack
- Red Light Therapy – This is essentially a non-invasive nostril probe (sounds worse than it is!) and you place the light-emitting probes into the nostrils for 3 minutes at a time 3-4 times a day to ease symptoms
- Mixed Pollens – A grain that contains grasses, cereals, blossoms, trees and weeds which basically reduces the allergic response by slowly introducing pollens to decrease sensitivity
As well as the above, there are the usual things you can do to prevent having a hay fever attack; keeping an eye on the weather and avoiding long country walks when there’s a high pollen count. However, there are also other things you can do around the home to make your life that little bit easier and these can help with other allergies such as dust/mites/mould/pets etc.
- Allergy Vacuum Cleaners – yes, I too thought this was a fad, it isn’t! This unique breed of hoovers have more bristles and extra homoeopathic-va-va-vacuum to suck up even the smallest of irritating particles. They capture the allergen and then release cleaner air. Genius
- Hepa Air Filters – placed in common areas of the home, the filter traps even the smallest particles of pollen preventing them from being breathed in and is suitable for severe hay fever
- Dry Washing Inside – when the pollen count is very high, avoid hanging your washing on the line. As lovely as that feeling of line dried clothes is, they act as a net to catch pollen floating in the air, and then we go and hang those clothes in the wardrobe which contaminates everything else and so the cycle continues
- Shower Before Bed – you have been outside most of the day acting like a giant pollen attractor. You’ll have tons of tiny pollen particles all over you, so the best thing to do is shower all those nasties off before you settle down for the night
- Use air-con – I can’t imagine many of us in the UK have this in our homes, but we certainly have it in the car, so rather than opening all the windows and turning the sound system up, if you’re suffering, you might want to keep the windows up and crank up the air-con instead
- Shoes – take shoes off as you enter the house and leave them there. A dedicated shoe cupboard or porch is the perfect place to avoid stomping in more allergies to your home
- Door Mats – have one on each entry; one inside and one outside to trap any allergens
- Pets – any outdoor/indoor pets can also bring in the badness, so regular grooming is a must
- Carpets – have you considered redecorating? What about opting for a hard floor? There are no fibres for that pollen to cling onto
Failing all of the above, all is still not lost. You can, of course, visit an allergist who can start to work with you to target the exact type of allergy you have and the best way to treat it, be that using over the counter treatments, homoeopathic or prescribed.
You can also make an appointment with your doctor who can, in extreme cases, offer immunotherapy which desensitises and essentially “switches off” the body’s allergy. This is carried out over a number of years usually across the duration of a three month period. The immunotherapy can be treated by sublingual immunotherapy (a tablet left to dissolve under the tongue) or via injection immunotherapy. Which is a… well, an injection.
If you suffer from hay fever, we all know it is extremely unpleasant, but the thing to bear in mind is it probably won’t go away, so the best thing to do, is be prepared for it before it sets in. Start to think about your treatment and try not to give up on one too easily or use too many at the same time, as you won’t know what is the most effective.
If you have tried any of the above methods, or indeed can recommend others, please share them to help your fellow sufferers.
For more information on allergies, visit Allergy UK
Please note, none of us, especially Austyn, is medically trained. Many of the recommendations listed above link to (but are not affiliated with) third party websites purely for further information. Treatments may not be suitable for use during pregnancy/when using other medication/other health problems are present.
Please consult your doctor/practitioner before starting any new treatment.