Hay fever: What is it and what causes it?
Hay Fever (or seasonal allergic rhinitis) is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen from grass, trees, or weeds, usually in the warmer spring and summer months between March and September, especially when the pollen count is high.
This causes the nasal passages, eyes and throat to be irritated producing cold-like symptoms.
For many people, hay fever couldn’t come at a worse time, falling right amongst exam season and at the time of year when outdoor social events like picnics and barbeques are popular and all the neighbours are mowing their lawns!
Just when you’d love to be sitting outside with a nice cool drink, the pollen count rises and you’re left with itchy eyes, a runny nose, a cough and feeling lethargic!
Symptoms of Hay Fever
- Itchy eyes which may be red and/ or watery
- Runny or blocked nose
- Sore throat
- Pain or pressure in sinuses
- Itching around mouth, nose, throat and ears
- Loss of smell
- Possible exacerbation of asthma in asthmatics
How can I tell whether I have Hay Fever or a Cold / Covid?
It can be hard to differentiate between having hay fever, a common cold and symptoms of covid. Generally hay fever gets worse when there is a high pollen count and doesn’t go away quickly. Colds often go away within a week of first onset.
Often with a cold or covid you get a temperature, where as hay fever (despite its name) is not associated with having a fever.
If you are concerned that your symptoms may be covid it is worth taking a lft test to be on the safe side.
Hay Fever: When to see a G.P.
For many people, over the counter antihistamines will be sufficient to keep your symptoms at bay. Your pharmacy should be able to advise you on the right hay fever remedy for you.
If you are still struggling after trying over the counter medication, speak to your G.P as there are some stronger medications and treatments that they can offer which are prescription only.
If you find that you start wheezing or find it hard to breathe, or have a diagnosis of asthma and that seems to be getting worse seek immediate medical help.
What can I do about Hay Fever?
Eat Local Honey
Some people swear by having a teaspoon of local honey every day during the run up to hay fever season, right until the pollen count drops in the autumn. Whilst there isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest that this will work, many people seem to think it does so it may be worth a try!
Use steam to unblock your nose
If you have a blocked nose try drinking a hot drink out of a wide-mouthed mug, the steam will help decongest your nose. Alternatively try having a hot shower or bath or taking a steam inhalation (apart from if you’re asthmatic as sometimes steam can bring on an asthma attack!)
Eating foods that have anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful so things like ginger may help. It is also thought that vitamin C may be helpful so try eating citrus fruits.
Take over the counter antihistamine remedies
Over the counter medications may help, most pharmacies and supermarkets have some kind of over the counter remedy for hay fever in the form of antihistamine tablets or sprays. If you’re taking any other medications it is worth speaking to a pharmacist first to avoid any clashes. There are some varieties of antihistamines that don’t make you drowsy, which are good if you plan on driving or operating heavy machinery.
Have regular reflexology treatments
Regular reflexology sessions may help the symptoms of hay fever by reducing stress levels, keeping the sinus reflexes clear, helping to clear head congestion and to balance mucus production. Reflexology also helps keep the lymphatic system working efficiently which boosts the immune system.
Try having a cold compress over your itchy eyes
If your eyes are very itchy, try steeping chamomile teabags in boiling water, leave to cool in the fridge and then gently use as a compress.
Keep out of the way of allergens where possible!
- It is useful to keep doors and windows closed on high pollen days. You can buy fans and portable air conditioning units to help keep the air flowing.
- Avoid being outside during the peak times for pollen. Pollen counts raise during the day, peaking around lunchtime and then fall towards late afternoon.
- Avoid mowing the lawn, especially on high pollen days.
- Wear a hat that shades your eyes, use wrap around sunglasses, and a face mask or scarf to help keep pollen out of your eyes, nose and throat.
- Use a barrier layer to keep pollen out of your nose. Vaseline is popular for this.
- Cooling eye gels can help soothe sore eyes.
- A Facial Mist may help soothe your face
- Wash your face when you come back indoors. You can also buy facial wipes designed especially to help with hay fever symptoms.
- Avoid hanging washing on the line. Instead dry it indoors or in a tumble dryer, or wait until the pollen count drops again.
- Wash your hair daily, especially when you’ve been outdoors during the day. Change your clothes and shower when you go back inside so you remove any pollen that may be clinging to you.
- Avoid having flowers in the house, especially ones that have a lot of pollen like lilies.
Hay Fever Resources
More information about Hay Fever from Allergy UK
Check the pollen count for the next few days
I am a Reflexologist, Reiki Master Practitioner and Writer from Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire. I love writing about Health and Wellbeing, Mind Body Spirit and Reflexology. When I’m not at work, you can find me in the kitchen cooking up a storm!