What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen which is estimated to affect 25 to 35 per cent of the population.
Allergies are reactions of the body due to hypersensitivity of the immune system to typically harmless substances in the environment such as pollen, foods, insect stings and medications. Allergic reactions occur when the body makes antibodies (IgE) to allergens which bind to the allergen causing inflammatory chemicals such as histamine to be produced. It is still not fully understood why some people suffer from allergies and others don’t. There is some research to suggest the allergies run in families and can be inherited (allergyuk.org, 2020).
What causes hay fever and what are the symptoms?
Hay fever occurs when the body makes antibodies to combat pollen. Pollen is a fine powder produced by plants. The pollen count is highest between March and September, and especially high during warm and humid days. Symptoms of hay fever include itchy eyes, itchy throat, sneezing, blocked or runny nose, watering and red eyes, headaches, block sinuses, shortness of breath, coughing, tiredness and post-nasal drip.
Coronavirus or hay fever?
As the pollen count increases as we move into spring, there may be some concern in distinguishing hay fever symptoms and coronavirus symptoms. The two main symptoms of coronavirus are a new, continuous cough and a fever. A new, continuous cough means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours, whilst a fever is defined as a body temperature over 37.8 degrees Celsius.
As there may be some overlap between hay fever and coronavirus symptoms, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs described some characteristics which distinguish the two conditions. Hay fever symptoms tend to be milder and fluctuate depending on the time of day as pollen levels are often higher in the afternoon and evening. Wet weather may lead to people experiencing milder symptoms of hay fever. People who regularly suffer from hay fever are likely to know the symptoms they get and the severity of these symptoms (RCGP.org.uk, 2020). Therefore, if someone experiences a significant deviation from their hay fever symptoms or have specific symptoms of COVID-19 they should follow government advice, which can be accessed at gov.uk/coronavirus.
Complications of hay fever
In the majority of hay fever sufferers, symptoms will be mild but 1 in 3 people reported that hay fever had a negative impact on their work, social and home life (nhsinform.scot, 2020). Some more serious complications from hay fever include sinusitis (sinus infection) and middle ear infections. If you think you are suffering from sinusitis or a middle ear infection, contact your GP or pharmacist for advice.
How to manage and treat hay fever
To manage hay fever try to monitor pollen forecasts daily and stay indoors wherever possible when the count is high (generally on warmer, dry days). On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair after arriving home and change your clothing to reduce symptoms of hay fever.
To treat the symptoms of hay fever, over-the-counter conventional medicines like antihistamines may be used but natural remedies and herbal treatments can also be used such as balms, tablets, eye drops and sprays. Natural remedies are often tolerated by the body better than synthetic medicines and may result in fewer side effects. It is important to note that if hay fever symptoms don’t improve then you should contact your GP.
An effective allergen barrier balm such as HayMax Pure could be applied around the edge of each nostril to trap or block pollens and help prevent a reaction. HayMax Pure is drug-free so it won’t cause any drowsy side effects and can be used on children, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.
A. Vogel Pollinosan Hay Fever Tablets are a homoeopathic alternative to antihistamines and are non-drowsy, so it does not affect your ability to drive. They contain seven herbal ingredients which have been used for centuries within the homoeopathic tradition to relieve the symptoms of hay fever.
To combat a common symptom of hay fever, red and itchy eyes, A. Vogel Extra Moisturising Eye Drops could be administered to provide relief. These eye drops contain double the amount of hyaluronic acid than standard formulas, an essential component when it comes to retaining water in the connective tissues.
Nasal sprays can also be used to help cleanse the nasal passage and throat of pollen and other allergens. Unlike corticosteroid nasal sprays, natural homoeopathic nasal sprays like A. Vogel Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray can be used for prolonged periods to provide relief from hay fever symptoms such as sneezing, a blocked or runny nose and an itchy throat.
There is anecdotal evidence that honey may support the body to build resistance to pollen. HayfeGUARD is a superior pollen honey formulation made from local English honey, pollen and royal jelly. Taking a small amount of this product each day may protect against hay fever symptoms and is a natural alternative to tablets.
Nettles have been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for various health problems, including to treat hay fever symptoms. The theory is that nettles act as an anti-inflammatory, relieving symptoms such as itchy eyes and throat, sneezing and a runny nose. Stinging nettles need to be boiled to remove the ‘sting’ therefore nettle tea is commonly used as a natural relief for hay fever. Although, if picking nettles isn’t appealing to you, Terranova Quercetin Nettle Complex concentrates nettle leaves and other botanicals such as turmeric root and elderflower into a convenient capsule. This plant-based, vegan supplement also contains 150mg of vitamin C, a vital vitamin for the immune system.