As our pollen levels increase at this time of year, so do the number of people suffering from hayfever. Allergies affect 1 in 5 of us and range from being a nuisance to having a significant impact on quality of life, with persistent symptoms affecting sleep, concentration and behaviour. Treatments are available from your pharmacy. We suggest using one at a time initially to assess how well they are working. They include:
Antihistamines either as a nasal spray or tablets can be used for people with occasional, mild symptoms. They can be used on an “as required” basis as both are quick to work.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays can be more effective for controlling sneezing, itching and a runny or blocked nose. They are best used continuously throughout the pollen season and can be taken as well as antihistamines.
Other options – saline nasal sprays can be used to relieve congestion and dryness or before other sprays to help them work better. Decongestant sprays may be used if the nose is really blocked but should only be used short-term. Antihistamine eye drops are another option to add on if the eyes are itchy or watery.
Medicines aren’t the whole answer and there are a number of things you can do to reduce your symptoms, including:
Find out what you are allergic to and avoid it
Easier said than done sometimes, but this is a very effective way of reducing your symptoms. It may be helpful to keep a diary of allergy reactions and possible allergens each day.
Rotate your antihistamines if they stop being effective
Antihistamine medicines come in either tablet or liquid form and prevent the release of histamine. Many are non-drowsy and last up to 24 hours. You may find rotating antihistamines can increase their effectiveness. It also helps to start the treatment before you are exposed to the allergens, either at the start of the season or at night so it is in the body for the morning.
Eat a varied, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
There is a lot of discussion about why allergy rates have increased exponentially over time. One factor is our modern, processed diet. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables boosts our vitamin C and flavonoid intake with their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune boosting benefits.
Try herbs and vitamins to reduce symptoms
Horseradish and garlic may be used to clear the sinuses and boost the immune system. You may have experienced the effect of horseradish on your sinuses if you’ve eaten a little too much wasabi. Garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties, as does baical skullcap and bromelain (from pineapple). Bromelain has been shown in studies to reduce the inflammation of the nasal passages and may activate a healthy immune system. Quercetin (from apples or onions) and vitamin C (oranges and red capsicum) have shown anti-histamine effects in studies so can be useful to manage allergies naturally.
Beer, wine and other spirits contain histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in your body. As well as making you more sensitive to pollen, alcohol also dehydrates you, making your symptoms seem worse
Have a good night sleep and try to limit stress
People with hayfever who get a good night’s sleep tend to have the mildest symptoms. Just 13% of people who had at least seven hours sleep a night reported severe symptoms, compared with 21% who regularly had five hours sleep or less a night.
People allergic to dust mites will suffer more in the morning but may also show symptoms of poor sleep, fatigue, dry mouth and lips on waking. Always use a damp cloth to wipe over surfaces when dusting. Choose 400+ thread count linen and wash in a hot wash. Choose a vacuum cleaner with a hepa filter and vacuum often. Remove woollen underlays from the bed and embrace a minimalist look in bedrooms.
Most pollen is in the air early in the morning so try to minimize your activity between 5:00-10:00am, and if you are out and about wear close-fitting sunglasses. Keeping the windows shut in your house and car may reduce the number of allergens in the environment. When gardening, select low pollen-producing plants (usually native species) and wear a mask and sunglasses when mowing the lawn – it really does make a difference!