Hayfever misery for millions as pollen bomb explodes as temperatures soar
THE RECORD high March temperatures have come just in time for the Covid rules to allow friends and family to meet up outdoors.
But many hayfever sufferers will have to endure watery eyes and an itchy, runny nose if they want to join in.
This week a pollen explosion could cause misery for the millions of people with hayfever.
“Very high” pollen counts are set for the South East, South West, Midlands and East of England today, as well as Wales.
Moving towards the end of the week, when temperatures will drop again, the southern regions will continue to have “medium” pollen counts.
The Met Office said the warm weather is triggering birch pollen to spread in these regions, as well as some ash pollen.
Both types of pollen, from trees, generally peak in April or May.
But they can also spike as early as March if temperatures are as high as they are today, at 24C.
Although they are highly allergenic, grass pollen is actually the most common allergy for those with hayfever – affecting 90 per cent of sufferers, according to Allergy UK.
The North West and Yorkshire will also have a “medium” level of pollen today.
This is due to rising tree pollen generally, combined with some ash, birch, hazel, alder and elm.
MASK UP, EXPERTS SAY
Those with hayfever may be pleased to know that mask wearing against Covid may also help to suppress their allergies.
A recent study carried out in Birmingham, Alabama shows that nurses with hay fever had significantly reduced symptoms when wearing a face mask.
Max Wiseberg, airborne allergens expert and creator of HayMax, said: “It stands to reason that if you’re allergic to grapes then you avoid eating the grape. So if you’re allergic to pollen, you avoid the pollen.
“But it’s difficult to do that when you’re outside because it’s everywhere. And we can’t see it, so if you put a mask on your face then it will obviously shut out some of the pollen."
What’s more, pollen has been shown in some research to increase the risk of catching the coronavirus, another compelling argument to wear a covering.
It’s also important to notice when your symptoms of hayfever may in fact be caused by Covid.
Dr Shaeeb Ali, an independent pharmacist prescriber at private online pharmacy MedsOnline247, said: “In the context of Covid-19, it’s vitally important that people are recognising the signs of hay fever and not mistaking them for symptoms of coronavirus.”
How to prevent hayfever, according to experts
1. Create an on-the-go first aid kit
There are plenty of products you can pick up at the chemist to keep your symptoms in check, each with different abilities.
Antihistamines block the action of a chemical called histamine, which the body releases when it thinks it's under attack from an allergen.
Dr Ali said: “Chlorphenamine maleate [such as Piriton Allergy Tablets] is an antihistamine tablet that can be extremely effective to treating hay fever symptoms.
“As this is a drowsy medication, it can be beneficial to improving sleep quality that may have been otherwise impacted by hay fever symptoms."
But for those who could endager themselves if they are drowsy during the day, he recommended non-drowsy tablets such as Loratadine and fexofenadine [Telfast].
If you’re struggling with a blocked, itchy or runny nose, a steroid nasal spray might provide you with some extra relief. They work by reducing the inflammation inside the nose.
Dabbing some balm, such as that from HayMax or petroleum jelly like Vaseline, around the nostrils and bones of the eyes acts as a barrier against pollen.
It traps the pollen before it gets in the body and starts to cause a reaction.
Max said: “It is a great idea to create your own first aid kit and take it with you everywhere with one or more natural products, one antihistamine, one steroid nasal spray and eye drops, can prove very effective, especially when pollen counts are very high or you suffer with severe symptoms.
“Always ask your GP or pharmacist before combining treatments.”
2. Choose the right food and drinks
For an alternative home remedy, you could try some traditional methods based on diet.
Max said eating a very hot curry bursting with spices can reduce inflammation caused by the enzyme phospholipase A2, which is provoked into action by pollen in your system.
“And make sure there’s lots of onions in too, as they contain quercetin, a natural anti-histamine, which blocks the effects of histamines”, he said.
“The best type are red onions, as they have the highest levels.
“Drinking hot tea with lemon and honey first thing in the morning is said to activate movement of the nasal cilia, which helps prevent early morning sneezing with allergies or hay fever.”
3. Get enough sleep in clean sheets
Research has shown people who get at least seven hours of sleep have fewer hayfever symptoms than those who get five.
If it's difficult to nod off due to a sniffly nose and itchy eyes, having a shower before bed to make sure you’ve removed any pollen particles from your body.
Pollen can stick around for a while on your skin and hair even after you've gone back indoors.
Similarly, the bed can cause aggravation if pollen has attached to the sheets or pillow after coming in through the window.
Cover your bed during the day with a sheet and turn your pillows over before you sleep.
4. Keep pets clean
Animal fur can easily collect pollen when outdoors.
When pets like dogs, cats and bunnies return to the comfort of your home, they bring this pollen with them where it transfers to clothing, furniture, carpets and bedding.
Try a pet friendly shampoo on days when the pollen count is high to keep your animals free of plant particles.
5. Have sex
Max said a romping session could help you get on top of hayfever – although this is not proven.
“This is because, at the point of orgasm the sympathetic nervous system constricts blood vessels across the body and an Iranian neurologist has suggested that this could help with hay fever.”
6. Cut down on booze
Beer, wine and other spirits all contain histamine – the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in the body.
Sick of fighting against runny eyes? The Met Office recommends sticking to the soft stuff where possible to avoid adding any unnecessary allergy pressure.
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