It’s that time of year again – hay fever season. You may notice symptoms as early as March when the tree pollen season starts. This is followed by grass pollen season, then weed pollen – which can continue into September.
Let’s face it, the runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes and throat associated with hay fever can put a downer on summer – especially when you want to enjoy a picnic in the park or long bike ride. As such, many of us find ourselves reaching for antihistamines – over the counter medications designed to reduce histamine production. For some, these lead to drowsiness and become less effective as the season wears on.
Luckily, there’s plenty of other things you can try to help minimise and manage the most dreaded of hay fever symptoms.
1. Reduce your exposure
It may seem obvious but avoiding long periods of time on green and grassy areas when the pollen count is high can help to minimise aggravation of symptoms. Simply keeping windows shut during the day will limit your exposure to pollen when you’re inside. In particular, keep your bedroom windows shut to minimise residual pollen causing symptoms at night that might disrupt your sleep.
2. Create a barrier
Applying a balm or oil around your nose can help to trap pollen before it can enter your nasal passage and trigger symptoms. There are many natural balms designed for this purpose, however everyday items like olive oil work just as well. Similarly, wearing sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat when outside to avoid pollen reaching your eyes or settling in your hair can be beneficial.
3. Wash it off
Taking a shower or bath after being exposed to pollen can be helpful in removing it from the body. Changing and washing your clothes immediately is also beneficial.
4. Try nasal saline
Items such as a neti pot or saline nasal spray can be super helpful at clearing clogged nasal passages. These can be used 1-2 times daily and found at most health food stores or pharmacies.
5. Filter it out
When pollen season is in full swing, plugging in an air purifier can help to capture airbourne particles such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites, helping to reduce allergy symptoms.
6. Try quercetin
Quercetin is a natural compound found in lots of food and drink, including onions, turmeric, dark berries, red wine and citrus fruits. It’s been shown to reduce the release of histamine in the body by stabilising the cells that release it. While quercetin can be consumed through diet, many find that regular use of a quercetin supplement early in allergy season can be quite effective. Speak to a nutritionist to find the right option for you.
7. Allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy)
Allergy shots essentially work like a vaccine. It’s a form of exposure therapy that helps patients become desensitized or more tolerant towards their allergen by injecting small amounts of pollen into the body, allowing the immune system to create antibodies and stop symptoms from occurring. While this can be a great option for some, it takes a big commitment and is generally done early in the season. Speak to your doctor or an allergist for more information.
8. Switch your flower order
While there’s nothing quite like a fresh vase of flowers to brighten up a room, this thoughtful gift can be an allergy sufferer’s worst nightmare. If you’re buying flowers for someone with seasonal allergies, try to avoid high pollen varieties such as lilies, daisies and sunflowers in favour of more hay fever-friendly varieties such as peony, roses or hydrangea.
9. Choose garden plants wisely
As with flower bouquets, the plants you choose for your garden can have a big impact on how you feel during prime allergy season. Trees such as birch, oak, cedar and mulberry are known to be major allergy-triggering culprits, while aster, chamomile and dahlia can be high in pollen too. Instead try plants like antirrhinum, gladious, cornus and rosaceae which tend to be less troublesome.
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