Hay fever & Exams - Tips for Weathering a Perfect Storm

Exams and Hay Fever - Tips for Weathering a Perfect Storm From a Survivor

It’s a terrible truth that peak hay fever season always coincides with GCSE and A-Level exams in May and June – affecting millions of young people just when they need to be at the top of their game. Exams are where it all began for Breaze. Our founder, Sam came up with the idea for her own son when antihistamines were making him drowsy during his GCSES. Read more about their story here and keep reading for Sam’s tips on how to support your own teens through both exam fever and hay fever.

Too often hay fever’s dismissed as a trivial issue, but it can have a real impact on exam performance. One study shows that students who had hay-fever symptoms on the day they were sitting an exam were 40% more likely to drop a grade from their predicted results. This figure rises to 70% in those taking certain types of antihistamines that can cause drowsiness*

This month around 1.2 million 16 and 18 year olds will begin sitting GCSEs and A Levels again since Covid 19 saw the cancellation of all external exams in 2020 and 2021. For most this will be the first time they’ve ever sat a public exam.

Alllergy UK reports that up to 49% of the UK population suffers from hay fever and it’s on the increase - up to 37% say they have developed hay fever in the last five years. It’s caused when the body’s immune system overreacts to otherwise harmless foreign airborne particles like pollen, dust or pet dander. The immune system sees these allergens as a threat and releases chemicals called histamines in response.

Histamines create inflammation and unpleasant symptoms as your body fights to get rid of the allergens. A thick, stuffy head, fatigue, runny, itchy or blocked nose, puffy, itchy eyes and constant sneezing are typical. The symptoms can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult too. It all adds up to a perfect storm.

The inevitable stress of exams can increase histamine response - poor sleep can also lead to increased stress levels which in turn, you guessed it, further increases histamine levels.

Some conventional treatments like certain antihistamine tablets can lead to drowsiness – far from ideal when revision and exam performance are at stake. So what’s the best approach?

There’s no doubt that a daily antihistamine tablet is the go to treatment for hay fever. There are many different types available but some can cause drowsiness. Look out for so called ‘second generation’ antihistamines which are less likely to cause drowsiness – opt for those containing the active ingredients loratidine, cetirizine or fexofenadine.

As well as drug based therapies and trying to avoid pollen (easier said than done) there are lots of other things you can do to support your stressed out teens. Here are my top tips:

Drink lots of water – dehydration can lead to increased levels of histamine and keeping well-watered helps with concentration too.

Eat foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory – opt for colourful fruits and veg like broccoli, spinach, raspberries, blackcurrants & cherries. Nuts, avocado and olive oil also help with inflammation as does oily fish and olive oil. Cutting down on sugary foods and overly processed fatty foods is a smart move too.

Try essential oils – Many have natural soothing properties. All Breaze products contain a special blend of pure aromatherapeutic essential oils. 

Stop pollen in its tracks – Breaze allergy balm applied around the nostrils stops up to 30% of allergens from getting into your airways and the essential oils help  easier breathing.

Sleep like a baby – said no one who’s lived with a baby! But seriously, anything you can do to help your teens get a good night’s sleep is a great place to start. A few drops of Breaze vapour oil in a bath before bedtime or in a diffuser can help easier breathing and a better night’s sleep – a recent customer survey revealed that over 80% of people said Breaze helped them to sleep better.

The next few weeks are going to be challenging for anyone with hay fever and none more so than those doing exams.

Good luck, we’ll see you on the other side in a few weeks when the storm clouds have lifted!