We normally associate hay fever with summer – but as trees start releasing pollen in March the misery has already started.
For hay fever sufferers what should be the best months of the year are blighted with streaming eyes, a runny nose and sneezing fits.
But there are ways to alleviate the debilitating effects of hay fever which approximately one in eight Britons suffer from.
What causes hay fever?
Simply, it’s an allergy to pollen.
Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle.
“It contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed”, the official NHS Choices website says.
People can be allergic to tree pollen, which is released in spring, and grass pollen, which is released at the end of spring and beginning of summer.
Some may also be allergic to weed pollen which is released at the end of autumn.
Can hay fever be cured?
No – but its symptoms can be mitigated with a wide variety of actions treatments.
NHS Choices recommends:
- Wearing wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes when you’re outdoors;
- Taking a shower and changing your clothes after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body;
- Applying a small amount of Vaseline (petroleum gel) to the nasal openings to trap pollen grains.
- Staying indoors when the pollen count is high (over 50 grains per cubic metre of air);
You can monitor the pollen count (how much pollen there is in the air) on the Met Office website.
Hay fever treatments:
The number of products to alleviate hay fever is near infinite.
Most fall into two categories: antihistamines which prevent the allergic reaction and steroids which reduce the inflammation and swelling.
But some have neither meaning they’re suitable for pregnant women.
Acute sufferers may need to order prescription strength treatments through their GP but many moderate treatments are available over the pharmacy counter.
Here are a few:
- Otrivine is a nasal spray that decongests an itchy, blocked nose;
- Prevalin is spray that’s free of antihistamines and steroids. It lines the inside of the nose preventing contacts from pollen. There is also a version for children.
- Ultra Chloraseptic Throat Spray contains benxocaine which numbs a sore throat.
- Haymax is a barrier balm which you can apply to the lining of your nose. It catches the pollen and prevents it touching your skin.
We can’t vouch for how effective they are but some people recommend a hot curry, fish, red grapes, camomile tea, regular sex (orgasms constrict blood vessels across the body which alleviates hay fever apparently) and boiled stinging nettles!