Hay fever? Why is grass pollen such a problem?

Look Out! Love is in the air.

Less love story, more wind-powered plant orgy, the main grass hay fever season is upon us.

The middle to the end of May is when different types of grass go looking for love and come into flower - it’s also when the majority of us with hay fever start to feel lousy.

Most garden plants and shrubs rely on insects and clever bees to carry the male pollen grains to fertilise the female parts of their flowers so they don’t tend to cause allergic reactions. But grasses - whose flowers are unrecognisable from the kind of blooms we see in bouquets - rely on the breeze to carry their pollen to the objects of their desire.

That’s why hay fever is so much worse on a windy day. On very high pollen days the air we breathe can be loaded with a minestrone of microscopic grains of pollen from all sorts of plants and between May and July wind pollinating grasses are the biggest contributors.

So why is grass such a problem?

Unlike most plants, grasses grow from the base which means they’re able to survive and continue to grow even when damaged by grazing animals, mowers - even fire. With about 160 different species in the UK covering around 40% of the land, there’s a lot of it out there! Grasses produce a lot of pollen to increase the chances of pollination and the pollen is also very light in texture, so it’s easily picked up on the breeze.  And the really bad news? It’s highly allergenic, affecting around 95% of hay fever sufferers.

It’s not just the stuff you find in the verges, gardens and parks either. Many cereal crops like wheat, oats and barley are also wind pollenating grasses. In rural areas where there’s a lot of farming, the concentration of pollen in the air can be a real problem. And during harvest time, the dust kicked up by the machinery can make life even more difficult for people with allergies.

As anyone with hay fever will tell you, it’s impossible to avoid pollen altogether but we’re here to help as much as possible so here’s a few tips and tricks to keep you more comfortable when allergies peak.

Staying well-hydrated can lessen the intensity of the histamine response that causes hay fever symptoms. Make it water though – caffeinated tea & coffee and alcohol (sorry about that) can actually dehydrate you.

A spoonful of local honey is thought to help desensitise your body to pollen

Chamomile tea is known to relieve inflammation in your airways and also has an antihistamine effect. Save the cold tea bags to soothe puffy eyes.

Strip off and change when you come in from outside to get away from any pollen that’s landed on your clothes.

Shower and wash your hair at night to get rid of any pollen that’s found its way into your hair during the day. Try this together with Breaze Motion Activated Pillowcase to help with easy breathing and puffy morning eyes.

Tumble dry or dry inside to avoid pollen collecting on clothes and bedding line-dried outside.

Essential oils Some essential oils can be helpful in supporting clear, easier breathing and better sleep. Oils like lavender, camomile, clove leaf, eucalyptus and lemon have been shown in studies to have useful aromatherapeutic properties. 

Dance in the rain when it washes the pollen out of the air, but beware the post- shower spike as all the plants get back down to business.