The sun is shining, the flowers are in bloom and the season of hay fever is thoroughly upon us, this can make the summer months a real struggle for many. It’s hard to embrace nature and the outdoor world when you are literally allergic to it. There’s a variety of over-the-counter medications, which can provide some relief, but they aren’t effective for everybody and can come with side effects. So what other options are there?
What exactly is hay fever?
Hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) is an allergic reaction to pollen – the minute particles that plants and trees release as part of their reproductive cycle. For those who are allergic, the pollen triggers the antibody immunoglobulin E, which can result in significant inflammation and irritation of the upper respiratory tract, leading to symptoms, such as congestion, itchiness and sneezing. Hay fever can be a severe condition for many and the physical symptoms can lead to low mood, fatigue and significantly interfere with daily life.
There are a number of non-pharmaceutical options for reducing and relieving hay fever symptoms, which are provided below. In the case of options such as honey, pollen or some herbal remedies, it is recommended that you begin taking these at least one month before you start experiencing symptoms.
Hay fever tips:
- Honey. A spoonful of honey helps keep the hay fever away! Honey is a traditional remedy for hay fever, believed to help build up a resistance to pollen. So in the lead up to the hay fever months, start adding a teaspoon of raw, local honey to your diet. At the very least, you will be benefiting from its antimicrobial and immune system properties. You can also buy some pollen and add a teaspoon of that to your meals too.
- Coconut oil. If you’re stepping outside, then apply some coconut oil to the edges of each nostril, which will trap the pollen particles and stop them from entering your air passages. You’ll also have a wonderfully moisturised nose!
- Gut microbiome: Studies are showing that a more diverse and balanced gut microbiome leads to lower levels of inflammation and therefore a less heightened immune system response to irritants. So feed your body with a (balanced) diversity of veg, fruit, fermented foods, seeds and pulses alongside trying to avoid too many foods containing lots of refined sugar.
- Avoid cosmetics. Your eyes and the area around your eyes is a particularly sensitive area already and even more so when you are experiencing hay fever symptoms. Cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara and foundation can exacerbate irritation and lead to more discomfort. If you do use any products then try to stick to organic brands that are as chemical-free as possible, including eye pads, and makeup remover.
- Shower. Have a quick shower when you get home to remove the pollen. This will also be a refreshing way to cool your body temperature down on those super hot days.
- Ease the irritation. Placing a cool, wet flannel over your eyes, or some slices of cucumber can help to soothe and provide some relief.
- Hoovering. Housework may not sound like the most appealing idea, but having a bit of a hoover and dusting session (with a wet cloth) can help by removing some of the pollen particles from around your home.
- Pollen count. It seems a shame and somewhat impractical to simply suggest staying indoors and keeping the windows shut, but you can check the Pollen Forecast provided by the Met Office to help you make decisions on a day-by-day basis.
Chamomile tea compress
A chamomile compress works wonders for soothing swollen, irritated eyes. Simply make up a chamomile infusion (as you would a loose-leaf tea) and after 15 minutes, pop it all in a jar and place in the fridge to cool. Once it’s suitably cold, put a spoonful of the flowers into 2 pieces of muslin and place over each eye. This is hard to do whilst standing up, so I also suggest you lie back and relax for a minimum of five long minutes. And don’t forget to drink the calming, cooling infusion.
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We hope that these suggestions help those of you with hay fever (and your friends and family) to enjoy these beautiful summer months.
Words by Heather.
Connecting people to nature.