Spring is here and although it’s a beautiful time of year, sadly for many it’s a season of extreme discomfort. The blossoming trees and green grasses of spring and summer bring with them pollen and for those who suffer with hay fever that can mean a whole host of uncomfortable symptoms.
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. The body’s immune system reacts by releasing huge amounts of histamine, causing inflammation. Common symptoms include itchy, swollen and watery eyes, an itchy, runny or blocked nose, sore throat, reduced air flow through the nose (from swelling of the nasal passages), blocked sinuses, sneezing and skin irritation.
It’s estimated that more than 10 million people suffer with hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) in the UK, with approximately 1 in 4 being affected.
Conventional medicines include over the counter anti-histamines, nasal sprays, decongestants or prescribed steroids (eg corticosteroids) to relieve inflammation and swelling. In some severe cases immunotherapy is suggested (giving gradually increased doses of allergen extracts, over a period of time) but this can take years.
What natural approaches can we take?
Thankfully there are plenty of natural options to try. Here are some popular ones that we receive good feedback on in the shop:
- Vitamin C – a natural anti-histamine
- Quercetin -(found in foods like onions, apples and some berries) has anti-histamine effects.
- Bromelain (an enzyme found in pineapple) has anti-inflammatory properties and is often found in supplements that contain quercetin, as it helps the absorption of quercetin.
- Nettle – has anti-histamine properties. Try it as a tea or supplement.
- Herbal tinctures – specifically formulated for allergies and hay fever
- Herbal nasal sprays
- Herbal eye drops
- Homeopathic remedies – specifically formulated for hay fever
10 Top Tips for managing hay fever naturally:
- Try a natural food or herbal supplement or homeopathic remedy for symptomatic relief
- Eat natural anti-histamine foods: Vitamin C foods (eg oranges, red peppers, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, kale), quercetin containing foods (eg apples, peppers, onions) and the bromelain containing food, pineapple.
- Try eating local honey well before the hay fever season starts, to build up your immunity to the local pollen.
- Try eating hot spicy foods to help decongest the nose or thin any mucous, eg ginger, cayenne peppers, hot chilli peppers, horseradish or hot mustard.
- Support your immune system by taking a good quality probiotic and getting enough Vitamin D. (We can get Vitamin D from sunshine but most of us don’t get enough in the UK, so get your levels checked). Echinacea, elderberry and zinc also support the immune system and can be taken as supplements.
- Avoid dairy foods as they can be mucous forming for many people and too much can be pro-inflammatory
- Avoid high levels of sugar and white, refined carbohydrates as these can be pro-inflammatory
- Avoid alcohol, especially wine, champagne and beer, as these contain high levels of histamine
- Eat oily fish (eg anchovies, mackerel, sardines and wild/organic salmon) at least twice a week, to get Omega 3 essential fatty acids, or take a supplement. Omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Try putting eucalyptus oil or peppermint oil in a diffuser or make an inhalation with 1-2 drops of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water.
What else can we do?
Here are some practical tips to minimise exposure to pollen:
- Use a barrier balm under your nostrils to prevent pollen going in (remember to reapply it when you blow your nose!).
- Avoid being out in the peak pollen times (check the MET office website for pollen count forecast).
- Have a shower or change your clothes when you come in, to remove pollen.
- Use sunglasses to completely cover your eyes (wrap around ones are a good option)
- Don’t dry your washing outside
- Don’t keep fresh flowers in the house
- Keep windows and doors closed (draw curtains if need to keep the house cool)
- Improve air quality in the home by using a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner on flooring and furniture, using a dehumidifier and a HEPA air purifier
- Minimise synthetic clothes on your skin as they create an electrical charge which can make the pollen stick to your skin
- Wash clothes at a hot temperature
Come and talk to us at Inside Out Health Shop if you’d like any advice on which natural products to try for hay fever. We love to help and have a great range of products!
Please note that if you are on any medication, always check with your GP or healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.