Did you know it is reported that 3.2 million Australians experience hay fever each year? Are you one of them?
Hay fever is also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis. It’s usually caused when pollens from flowering trees, weeds and grasses irritate the nasal passages.
It’s not just sneezing and a runny nose that afflicts sufferers. Itchy eyes, ears, roof of the mouth or skin are common, along with debilitating fatigue. Due to the severity of the symptoms, some first-time sufferers can often confuse hay fever with a virus. However, unlike a cold, the allergy symptoms will often come and go at full force, rather than the viral pattern of building up to a peak followed by a gradual recovery.
Hay fever is caused by an allergic reaction, where the body’s cells release large amounts of a chemical called histamine. Therefore the only true remedy is to avoid the particular pollens that are causing the problem. As this isn’t always possible, naturopaths usually advise reducing your exposure to pollens, taking natural anti-histamines and reducing the body’s mucus.
Reduce your pollen exposure
Here are some practical ways to cut back the amount of pollen you come in contact with daily.
- Sleep with the windows closed.
- Minimise the time you spend outside on high pollen count days. (To find out the pollen count on any day, Google ‘pollen count’ and your city). If possible, stay inside and shut the doors and windows.
- Wash your face after being outside.
- Dry washing inside or use a clothes drier. (Never hang out the washing on a high pollen count day.)
- Use a neti pot or saline nasal spray to rinse out your sinuses, at least twice a day.
- If possible, invest in a good vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and vacuum frequently during the season.
Take natural anti-histamines
These are three natural options.
- Vitamin C – the most effective natural anti-histamine. However you need a medicinal dose of 500-2,000 mg, rather than just eating a piece of fruit.
- Probiotics – these may reduce the frequency of seasonal allergies. If possible use a refrigerated capsule or powder.
- Fresh nettle tea or freeze-dried nettles capsules – these can also reduce histamine levels.
Decrease mucus during the allergy season
When the pollens are around try to avoid eating wheat (flour) and dairy products as these foods may cause you to produce more mucus. Also, drinking elderflower tea (1 teaspoon of dried flowers per cup) three times can relieve sinus congestion.
What about conventional drugs for hay fever?
These are some issues associated with using conventional hay fever medicines.
- Many allergy sufferers report that they develop a tolerance to anti-histamines and with repeated use, the drug becomes less effective in treating their symptoms. Taking more doesn’t help.
- While hay fever itself can put you off sex, antihistamine drugs used to treat the condition can also cause erectile problems in men and decreased sexual function in women.
- If overused, steroid-based nasal sprays can thin the mucous membranes inside the nose.