While summer can be a joyful time of picnics, country walks and sunshine, for hay fever sufferers it’s a whole other story. It’s hard to enjoy days outside when you’re constantly sniffing, sneezing or suffering from a sore throat or itchy eyes.
What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is an allergic reaction that’s most commonly caused by pollen from grass (released during spring and summer) but can also result from tree pollen (released during spring) or weed pollen in late autumn.
Grass pollen is the most common cause in the UK, affecting 95% of sufferers.
Pollen contains proteins that can cause your sinuses to become swollen and irritated.
Studies have shown these allergies can also be exacerbated by pollution such as car fumes or smoking.
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
The main symptoms include a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. Many people also get a sore or tickly throat.
A study from the Met Office revealed that a third of sufferers say it puts them in a continuously bad mood, and a third would take a sick day but worry their bosses don’t take hay fever seriously.
How common is hay fever?
Around one in five people suffer from hay fever at some point in their lives. The Met Office have found that more than half of British sufferers don’t know the type of pollen that triggers their allergies, so they aren’t sure when to start taking medications.
Why have I developed hay fever as an adult?
While many people find their childhood symptoms improve with age, the opposite can also be true. It’s impossible to predict when and where you might develop allergies, but there are theories that increases in pollution or, interestingly, our more sanitised lives, might be increasing adult hay fever.
Another theory is that many adults have suffered their whole lives but with minor symptoms that they haven’t really acknowledged before.
Tips to help cure hay fever
While you can’t technically cure hay fever, there are lots of ways to make life easier. These are the official MET office tips, in association with the NHS:
- Take antihistamines from the start of the season to build up immunity and de-sensitise the effects of high pollen.
- Don’t open the windows when the pollen count is high – it’s tempting to open your windows to let in cooling air on a hot day, something that 4 in 10 hay fever sufferers admit to doing in the summer. You’re better off keeping the windows shut and investing in a fan for days when the pollen count is high.
- Cut the grass – Keeping grass short will help reduce symptoms and allow you to enjoy your garden as it only pollinates when it’s long.
- Don’t hang your washing outside – leaving clothes to dry outside might be tempting in warmer weather but it will result in pollen getting stuck to them. You’ll then be bringing pollen into your home also walking around in it too. If you have the space, it’s best to dry your clothes inside.
- Limit your alcohol intake – 1 in 5 hay fever sufferers admit they increase their intake of alcohol over the summer whilst enjoying the warm weather. Unfortunately, some studies have shown that many alcoholic drinks contain histamine, which is the same substance that’s released into the body when you have an allergic reaction. Alcohol could therefore cause or worsen symptoms of asthma and hay fever, so try to limit the amount you’re consuming over the summer.
- Shower in the evening – Only 23% of hay fever sufferers said they shower in the evening, but this can prove an effective way to combat allergies. Washing away the pollen on your body is a great method to keep symptoms at bay.\Change clothes when you come in from the outside –Unsurprisingly, 8 in 10 hay fever sufferers said they don’t do this, but a slight lifestyle change could prove a big help.
- Set up daily pollen alerts on the Met Office app. They come straight to your phone at 7am so you can plan for your day and take your medication before you leave the house.
If you suffer from hay fever and want to manage your symptoms more effectively, why not check out the Met Office’s dedicated pollen forecast? To receive pollen alerts, download the Met Office mobile app and request alerts for your area, when its moderate or higher (download from the iOS App store or the Google Play store).
Products to help hay fever
HayMax allergen barrier balms (£6.99) these clever little pots are great for relieving symptoms, and there’s even a version that’s safe for children. The balms provide a protective barrier for your nostrils, making it harder for pollen to get in and start irritating. Plus a study from Allergy UK found that 80% of users noticed a real difference in symptoms.
Eyelergy Eye Drops (£9.90 for 20 bottles) form a protective coating over the eye to stop pollen from getting in. Unlike many eye drops, they are also suitable for contact lens wearers.
Beconase Hayfever Relief Nasal Spray (£5.99 for 100 sprays) is an easy-to-use daily spray that helps hay fever and rhinisis through its anti-inflammatory ingredients.