Nutritionist Jenny Carson shares her tips and advice on how to lessen the irritating symptoms of hay fever and common allergies
It’s that time of year when everything starts to blossom and pollen is in the air. This is lovely for the flowers, but not so lovely for those of us who suffer with hay fever.
The symptoms of hay fever, including a runny nose, itchy eyes, and hives, can also be symptoms of other common allergies like pet dander, dust, or chemicals.
While treatments for these symptoms can be the same, recognising the distinction between hay fever and other allergies can help to identify the triggers and find ways to alleviate the reaction.
So, how do you know if you have hay fever? And what can alleviate the symptoms of allergies? Read on to find out…
What are the symptoms of hay fever?
Allergies and hay fever stimulate the immune system to secrete histamine. Histamine is an attempt to kill off the allergen, and in fact the symptoms we suffer are trying to do just that.
Common symptoms of both hay fever and allergies include a runny nose, itchy and swollen eyes, hives, feeling hot, itchy throat and nose along with sneezing, skin sensitivity and fatigue.
Pet dander and dust allergies share a lot of symptoms with hay fever, so it can be hard to know which is affecting you. Photo © Prostock-Studio via Getty Images
There is a different category of allergy that mounts an anaphylactic response – this can be fatal and often includes allergies to fish, shellfish, bee stings, or nuts.
The difference being that the airways swell up and breathing becomes difficult. This response requires immediate medical treatment.
How do I know if I have hay fever?
Hay fever is a reaction to pollen, including tree pollen, grass pollen or that from flowers. Other allergies can be to pet dander, dust or certain chemicals.
The symptoms will be the same, so the differentiating factor may be when the symptoms occur.
Hay fever is seasonal and can start as early as February or March and run into September, whereas dander, dust and chemicals are likely to trigger a response year-round.
Can lifestyle changes affect allergies and hay fever?
A few small changes to lifestyle habits can make a difference to the severity of allergy symptoms. Here are 8 simple things you can do to help keep the symptoms of hay fever at bay.
Wearing sunglasses can provide a barrier against pollen, helping to prevent itchy eyes from hay fever. Photo © Serhii Bezrukyi via Getty Images
8 top tips to help you relieve the symptoms of hay fever and allergies:
1. Use an air filter
Using an air filter and regular cleaning can help to remove the allergen from the living spaces. It can be useful to run the air filter during the night, or at least prior to your bedtime, to decrease the impact on sleep.
2. Wear sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses provides a barrier so that the allergen is less likely to contact the mucus membrane and stimulate itchy and swollen eyes.
3. Change your clothes
Change clothing as soon as you arrive home and put them straight into the laundry. Allergens stick to clothing and therefore may continue to trigger an allergic response hours after you have come indoors.
4. Take a cool shower
Taking a cool shower as soon as you arrive home will also remove the allergen from the skin and help to calm irritated skin.
5. Avoid grassy areas
Spend time in non-grassy locations, such as the beach, in the city or out on the water. Stay out of long grass, because it is more likely to bear seeds and, prior to that, secrete pollen.
In addition, contact to the skin from long grass may also be an irritant to the skin.
Opt for a walk along a beach or other non-grassy area to avoid hay fever triggers. Photo © jacoblund via Getty Images
6. Keep the pollen out
Try to stay indoors with your windows closed during peak pollen times. This, along with the previously mentioned air filter, will help minimise allergens at home.
7. Identify your triggers
Allergy testing can identify allergen(s) you are sensitive to and this can provide useful information for when creating a strategy to manage your allergic response.
8. Keep track of your reactions
Keep a diary to help identify a pattern of what exacerbates and what helps the allergy.
Are there supplements that can help with hay fever?
Several nutrients and botanicals have an antihistamine effect and they can be useful to reduce the severity of the allergic response.
Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine and helps to decrease the quantity of histamine produced1.
Some natural products, like black seed, can help to alleviate hay fever and certain allergies. Photo © Rouzes via Getty Images
Compounds that are rich in oligomeric proanthocyanidins are naturally antihistamine2 too, including pine bark extract, apple polyphenols and grape seed extract.
Black seed (also known as nigella sativa) exerts an antihistamine effect3, and this can be consumed as seed, milled seed or oil.
Other tips for managing symptoms of hay fever
When possible, start with antihistamine nutrients at least four weeks before the presence of the triggering allergen.
You can also take pleasure in alternatives – a picnic in a meadow becomes a picnic at the beach.
Staying inside during peak pollen time is an opportunity to watch a film you’ve had your eye on or read a book.
As a bonus, air filters reduce the indoor temperature by a couple of degrees, for a cooler environment on hot days.
Ready to get outside and enjoy the summer? Fire up the grill for these delicious vegan barbecue recipes
Featured photo © Jevtic via Getty Images
- Johnston CS, Martin LJ, Cai X. Antihistamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992 Apr;11(2):172-6. PMID: 1578094. [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1578094/]
- Allergy Relief – OPC: The Natural Antihistamine! [https://www.opc.cc/opc-antihistamine.html]
- Kanter M, Coskun O, Uysal H. The antioxidative and antihistaminic effect of Nigella sativa and its major constituent, thymoquinone on ethanol-induced gastric mucosal damage. Arch Toxicol. 2006 Apr;80(4):217-24. doi: 10.1007/s00204-005-0037-1. PMID: 16240107. [https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16240107/]