Spring heralds the start of spending more time outside as the temperatures rise and daylight hours lengthen, but for almost a quarter of us the corresponding growth spurt in the great outdoors comes with a sting in the tail. We are talking, of course, about hay fever.
Recent years have seen an increase in even more people suffering from hay fever. This is partly due to longer and hotter summers, which mean that certain types of pollen stay in season for longer than they used to.
If you are a sufferer, it is difficult to avoid the symptoms of hay fever completely, however there are things you can do that might help lessen the severity of it.
Follow our top tips below to help you enjoy springtime without the sneezes.
Prime your immune system before hay fever season hits. Vitamin A is vital for the health of mucous membranes which line the respiratory system, so include eggs and oily fish in your diet as well as yellow and orange coloured fruit and vegetables, which are rich in beta-carotene that the body can convert to vitamin A Zinc is also key for healthy immunity and is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, seafood and lean meat. Locally sourced honey may also help lessen the onset of hay fever. Omega 3 fats are also key to help minimise the allergic response, so top up on oily fish, flax seeds and walnuts to boost your levels.
Emerging research recently clarified the role that healthy gut flora play in allergic disease. Both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species improve clinical symptoms of seasonal allergies so add live yoghurt and kefir to your diet on a regular basis and consider topping up with a live bacteria supplement before the hay fever season.
During the allergic response to pollen, histamine is released by the cells in the body which give rise to many of the symptoms. Vitamin C is important here as low levels are associated with an increased production of histamine. The flavonoid quercetin found in abundance in apples and onions is thought to stabilise the activity of histamine, whilst bromelain, the enzyme in pineapple, enhances absorption of quercetin and may help break down mucous. Foods naturally high in histamine might be best avoided or limited during the hay fever season – these include shellfish, matured cheeses, red wine, tinned fish, strawberries and chocolate.
Salt has been used for centuries to aid the respiratory tract, helping cleanse the airways and expel mucous. If you don’t live by the sea, daily use of a salt pipe might be beneficial.
Have a shower immediately after coming in from outside to remove pollen from hair and skin. Pollen is highest early morning and early evening so try to avoid going out during these peak times. Wearing sunglasses and putting a smear of coconut oil just inside the nostrils to help stop pollen from getting to the nasal passages may also be beneficial.
Stress can make many things worse and make the immune system more sensitive to hay fever, so taking steps to minimise stress may also be helpful. Find something that you enjoy doing, whether it’s watching your favourite TV programme or spending time with loved ones. Gentle exercise such as yoga or Pilates may also be helpful to lessen the effects of stress.