Summer is upon us and for 1 in 5 people that means the imminent strike of hay fever. With this year’s summer set to be the hottest on record there will be plenty of garden parties and outdoor activities meaning plenty of opportunities for you to be exposed to pollen. With that in mind, here are our tips to help you reduce or even reverse your allergy symptoms this summer.
What is pollen?
Pollen is a fine powder that plants release as part of their reproductive cycle. Summer is when most plants reproduce and so release the most pollen. Many people suffer from hay fever like symptoms during late spring and throughout summer as a reaction to the proteins in pollen.
Different plants release pollen at different times during spring and summer and many people will only be affected by one type of pollen. Most tree pollens are released in spring and these are followed by grass pollens later in spring and into the summer.
How can I avoid it?
While avoiding the outdoors altogether might prove difficult when the weather is good there are still steps you can take to minimise your exposure. A visit to the beach, for example, might be a better option than a trip to the park or other grassy areas. Pollen counts are also at their lowest at night so try and stay inside until later in the day. Wearing wraparound sunglasses whilst you are outside will also help to limit the watery, itchy eyes associated with summer allergies and pollen exposure. When you are inside you can avoid pollen by keeping windows closed and avoid pollen being transferred into the house by drying laundry inside rather than outside if possible.
Which are the most effective treatments?
Although there is no proven cure for hay fever there are plenty of over the counter medications available which help combat the body’s reaction to pollen particles. Antihistamines are great as a preventative measure before pollen exposure, so make sure you take them before going out and then take regular doses throughout the day. Antihistamines can also relieve the symptoms of an allergic reaction that’s already started by tackling the chemicals that cause the itchiness, sneezing and watery eyes associated with pollen allergies. Nasal sprays and eye drops are also good where antihistamines don’t seem to have an effect.
Can I do anything to prevent a pollen allergy?
Like most things, the likelihood of you suffering from a pollen allergy or hay fever can be reduced by making a few small lifestyle changes. The NHS recommends exercising regularly, preferably inside or outside only in the evening when the pollen count is lower. Foods that are high in omegas 3 and 6, such as nuts, seeds and oily fish have a proven anti-inflammatory effect and can help to reduce your symptoms. On the other hand, many healthy foods such as melon, stoned fruits, apples and bananas may aggravate your symptoms. Reducing your alcohol intake is another effective way of combating summer allergies. Like pollen, alcohol stimulates histamines, the chemicals responsible for allergic reactions, and so will only exacerbate your existing symptoms. Cigarette smoke is another allergen similar to pollen and will only further the irritation of your nose, eyes and throat.
Seeing an Allergy Specialist
If these techniques don’t work, or you find that your symptoms are overwhelming ask your GP for a referral to a specialist or immunologist, this will help you to identify exactly what your allergens are and help you to tackle them specifically.
For further details visit http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Hay-fever/Pages/Introduction.aspx