Tips for managing hay fever

At least 20% of us suffer from hay fever in the UK. It's increasing every year - by 2030, 30 million people are expected to suffer from pollen allergies.

Hay fever isn't something that can be cured – and anyone who claims to offer a 'cure' isn't being truthful. But you can manage it. Arming yourself with the right information, making small changes to diet and lifestyle and using healthcare products that are right for you is the best way to handle your allergies.

Hay fever (or allergic rhintis) is a term used to describe the many symptoms that come when the body's immune system overreacts to a foreign substance or 'allergen' like pollen, pet dander, dust or fungal spores. When this happens the immune system releases large quantities of a substance called histamine which leads to the itchy, stuffy nose, irritated eyes, sore throat and headache that causes summer misery for millions.

These symptoms are the result of your immune system going into over-drive. Yes, your body is in fact actually working too well! As we age, our immune system starts to weaken which is why hay fever is something you will eventually 'grow out of'. But what about now?

There’s a whole range of remedies and solutions you can try, but trying to identify and avoid the things you’re most sensitive to is a great place to start.

Between March and May trees flower releasing pollen into the air. Around a third of people with hay fever are sensitive to tree pollen. By the end of May most trees have finished flowering and grasses and weeds take over – this is the time most people experience symptoms. If you find you’re suffering in the spring then you’re allergic to tree pollen, if your hay fever doesn’t come on until June then grass is your pollen-enemy. If it starts in the spring and continues all through the summer you are allergic to both tree and grass pollen.

By figuring out which trees and grasses trigger your hay fever, you might be able to avoid them, or you'll at least know to top-up on your remedies and take steps to minimise your exposure. Wearing wraparound sunglasses when out; keeping windows closed and avoid drying laundry outside during summer (where it will pick up pollen grains), are all ways to reduce the amount of pollen you come into contact with. Keeping well hydrated and avoiding certain foods can also help keep your histamine load in check too.

The go-to remedy for many hay fever sufferers is a daily anti-histamine tablet. These medicines supress your body’s production of histamine in turn reducing the symptoms. Used together with eye drops and nasal sprays they can be very effective in reducing many symptoms.

Using an allergen barrier balm around the nostrils can also help to reduce the amount of pollen that gets into your nose and airways. Balms and other products containing certain essential oils can provide extra health benefits. Some essential oils have a long traditional history of supporting clear, easier breathing and better sleep. Oils like lavender, camomile, clove leaf, eucalyptus and lemon have been shown in studies to have useful aroma therapeutic properties.