How to give hay fever the heave-ho
Those of us who don’t suffer from hay fever could be forgiven for wondering what could possibly be so bad about watery eyes and the odd bout of sneezing, but in reality, hay fever sufferers get it pretty bad. Especially in July, when grass pollen levels peak and symptoms are at their worst. Fortunately, though, there are ways and means of reducing the telltale signs of hay fever – sneezing, itchy eyes, and dry, raspy throats – some of which you may be privy to and some of which you won’t. We’ve rounded up a few top tips for your home and your diet, as well as some expert advice for runners too, which should help keep that pesky pollen at bay.
For your home
Hay fever is an allergy caused by dust and airborne pollen particles that have blown away from plants, trees and grass, so it makes sense to allergy-proof your home with a few simple steps.
Deal with any damp before July gets going. Dust mites love humidity; left undisturbed, the tiny bugs can produce up to 2,000 particles of waste during their 10-week life cycle, causing havoc to sufferers, so address any problems as soon as temperatures start to swell.
Keep your windows and doors closed at peak pollen times. As a rule of thumb, peak pollen time hits between 8am-10am and 5pm-7pm, so batten down the hatches to shut out irritants. If it’s a really hot day, air purifiers are great for circulating cool, clean air.
Bed, bedding and carpet maintenance. Sheets, duvets and deep pile carpet are a hotbed of pollen-catching activity; encase your pillows and mattresses in dust-proof covers, and wash sheets, pillowcases and blankets at least once a week in the hottest water possible. It’s a good idea to wave goodbye to feathers until the cooler weather sets in too.
For your diet
Some foods are natural anti-histamines. Create a diet rich in this lovely lot and you’ll help reduce the effect of histamines and so reduce your symptoms.
Remember to take a supplement. Omega 3, vitamin E, vitamin C and spirulina are the fantastic four of the anti-allergy world. Find a supplement containing these natural anti-histamines and you’ll help strengthen your immune system’s response to inflammation.
Choose healthy foods. Capers, red onions and watercress are punchy ingredients that contain high amounts of the natural antihistamine, quercetin, a plant flavonoid that has been shown to reduce allergy reactivity. Snack on pineapple too – it contains bromelain, which helps the body to absorb quercetin. Broccoli, kale, and peppers give a boost to the immune system, which will stop you getting hay fever quite so badly; sweet potato and spinach are handy for keeping the lining on the inside of your nose stable; and vitamin B5, found in avocados, oily fish, and chicken is a good all-rounder for reducing allergic symptoms.
Go for the hottest curry on the menu. Or, if you’re making your own, go heavy on the spices. Turmeric, an orange-yellow spice, widely used in curries and South Asian cuisine, is believed to reduce inflammation caused by the enzyme, phospholipase A2, which is provoked into action by pollen in your system.
If running’s your exercise of choice, hay fever can really stop you in your tracks and no one wants to be stuck inside on a treadmill on a hot, sunny day. We had a chat with Dr. Jean Emberlin, scientific director at Allergy UK, about how outdoor runners can keep their symptoms under control.
“The big problem for runners with hay fever is that their training involves breathing more deeply, taking in more air and inevitably taking in more pollen and spores that will aggravate their symptoms,” says Jean. “A lot of runners breathe through their mouth as well as their nose, so they need to be very careful in managing their exposure to pollen, but there is advice they can follow that will help.”
Talk to your pharmacist or GP to find adequate medication. Cellulose powder that you puff up your nose such as Nasaleze, forms a gel layer right up inside your nose, which stops the allergens reaching the mast cells that cause the hay fever reaction. For runny eyes, get some eye drops containing sodium cromoglicate, such as Opticrom, which will clear the bleariness and help you focus.
Time your runs around the worst of the pollen count. The highest pollen counts are usually first thing in the morning and late afternoon, so if you do have the luxury of choosing when you train, a lunchtime run will be much easier on your symptoms.
Avoid running through long flowering grass, or through woods. If you can, keep to open, short grass areas or tracks, so you don’t stir up the pollen as you run. Sticking to urban environments is preferable too, but away from roads and polluted, built up areas.
Shower straight after your run. Wash the pollen off your skin and always wash your hair. Even if you pop to the shops between training sessions, it’s a good idea wash your nose and eyes out when you get back inside.
Wear wraparound sunglasses. These are great for keeping pollen out of your eyes and for preventing exposure to bright sunshine, which will only exaggerate the symptoms of already aggravated eyes.