A the reported shortage of some hay fever medications comes in the middle of the pollen season. Don’t panic – for starters, stress is thought to exacerbate allergy symptoms. Either way, the active ingredient in short supply, chlorphenamine maleate, found in brands such as Piriton and Hayleve, can make you sleepy – and there are plenty of other antihistamine medications available. “For anyone over the age of two, you would recommend non-sedating antihistamines anyway,” says Margaret Kelman, an allergy nurse and spokesperson for Allergy UK. Here’s what should get you through the season.
Adopt the right remedies
Kelman recommends non-sedating antihistamines for “mild to moderate hay fever.” [to treat] immediately itchy, runny, runny nose and itchy, runny eyes.” Eye drops containing sodium chromoglicate or antihistamines may help. If you have a stuffy, congested nose, “you’ll probably need a corticosteroid nasal spray. This is because there is another type of immune mechanism that causes this, and the spray will reduce inflammation in the nose. You should talk to your GP first, says Kelman.
Locally produced honey has been seen as a cure and the theory seems sensible – that honey may contain pollen, picked up by bees when they collect nectar, so by eating it you can desensitize yourself – but there is no is no proof that it works. Any tiny amount of pollen in honey comes from the flowers, not the grasses and trees, which are the main culprits of hay fever. There are other supplements and gadgets — including light therapy devices that can be inserted into the nasal passages to treat inflammation — that claim to reduce symptoms, but there’s little evidence for them.
“Corticosteroid nasal sprays need a few weeks to start working,” says Kelman. “It’s also a good idea to get into the routine of taking anti-histamines.” The University of Worcester has a pollen calendar so you can start planning.
Know your pollen
Most hay fever is caused by grass or tree pollen. If you suffer in the spring, you are probably allergic to tree pollen; in the following months, it is probably caused by grass pollen. Of course, their seasons overlap, and you can be allergic to both, as well as weed pollens – often nettle and mugwort – that are present at the same time, so it can be miserable. As a general rule, says Kelman, “if you know when your pollen seasons are, you can start pre-dosing a few weeks before.”
The grass pollen season is starting earlier than average, says Dr Beverley Adams-Groom, senior palynologist and pollen forecaster at the University of Worcester’s School of Science and Environment, “with the first day big day expected in the south maybe next week, if the weather is hot and dry”. This year’s grass pollen season is expected to be average, she says, “although it all depends on the weather in June. If June is wet, then the season will be milder.
Seek help from a specialist
If you have severe hay fever, your GP can refer you to an allergist. For the small number of people who do not benefit from antihistamines and nasal steroids, and whose hay fever affects their quality of life, immunotherapy may work. Drops or tablets containing doses of grass or tree pollen, placed daily under the patient’s tongue or given as monthly injections, “trigger the immune system to think [the pollen is] OK, and turn off the allergic response and thus turn off the hay fever. Some people will use it all year round, others will use it the month before their hay fever starts and then throughout the season,” says Graham Roberts, professor of pediatric allergy at the University of Southampton and who runs an allergy clinic. . Researchers are working on pre-season treatments that will continue to work throughout, but currently “we’re a long way from there,” Roberts says.
Check the pollen forecast
The Met Office has a pollen forecast, and on days when the pollen count is high, “you know you need to take extra care during the day,” says Kelman. This means making sure you have medication with you, including inhalers if you also have asthma. On busy days, keep house and car windows closed and do not dry clothes or bedding outside.
Take steps to avoid pollen – and pollution
If you can, change your life around risk. On high count days, grass pollen is worse in the early morning and late afternoon until evening, but in warm southern parts of the UK it can continue throughout the night. During tree pollen season, evenings are less of a problem. Choose a trip to the beach over a day in the park and, if possible, avoid cities as pollution exacerbates hay fever. “People wonder why they have bad hay fever in big cities because there’s not so much grass,” Roberts says. “But pollution irritates your nose, lungs and eyes, so pollen has a much bigger impact on you. Pollution and pollen can make symptoms worse.
Block as much pollen as possible
A brimmed hat and sunglasses can reduce the amount of pollen “that gets into your face and into your hair,” says Kelman. A smear of balm such as Vaseline around the nose and eyes can help trap it. Wearing a mask can also help. “We’ve become familiar with masks, and they’ve proven to be quite effective in reducing the pollen particles we breathe in,” Kelman says. “A simple cloth mask will act as a partial barrier.” A mask also warms the air we breathe “which makes our airways less reactive”.
remove the pollen
To avoid bringing pollen into the home, Kelman recommends removing outer layers of clothing when entering. take a shower and wash your hair, especially if your symptoms are really bad, and especially before going to bed. You can also rinse your nasal passages and eyes with saline solutions from pharmacies. Pets can bring pollen indoors – and they can get hay fever too. Wipe cats and dogs with a damp cloth. “Grass and tree pollens are very good pollens, [so] you might not necessarily see them, but they can be worn on their fur,” says Kelman.