For most, summer is a time of camping outdoors, picnics in the park, BBQs, walks in the countryside and generally a fun time which makes the most of being outside. However, for an estimated 10 million people in the UK, summer also signifies the start of soggy tissues and itchy eyes. Ah yes. Summer is also hayfever season. Look around any pharmacy and you’ll see a prominent selection of hayfever tablets, sprays and eye-drops packed with antihistamines which promise to alleviate tiresome symptoms. Yet for those who don’t want to rely on medication to combat their allergy, what are their options? We’ve pulled together natural ways to deal with hayfever and also soothing solutions for if you do succumb to the dreaded itchy eyes. 

What is hayfever and what causes it?

Hayfever, also known as Allergic Rhinitis, is inflammation within the nose caused by an over-active immune system to air-bourne allergens.

Causes can be:

  • Pollen
  • Pet hair
  • Dust
  • Mould
  • Cleaning Products

In this article, we’re specifically talking about pollen-related hayfever, which is seasonal. Unfortunately, the pollen which mostly causes hayfever can be from trees, grass and shrubs and they all release their spores at different times of the year; trees generally release their pollen from March to early May, grasses release pollen from late May to early August and some shrubs release theirs in late summer. So depending on where you live and what you’re allergic to, the hayfever season can last for more than 6 months - from March to October.

It is thought that approximately 90% of those who suffer from hayfever are allergic to grass pollen and grasses to particularly watch out for include ryegrass and timothy. Trees seem to be less of an allergen for the average hayfever-sufferer, although birch seems to cause an allergy for 20% of sufferers

 

Symptoms

If you do have a reaction to pollen then you’ll know about it often within minutes of exposure. And it’s not just a case of the sniffles – it can also seriously affect your concentration, your mental health, sleep quality and quantity, ability to work and much more. Everyone is also different so whilst one person is affected by a certain pollen, another may not be.

Symptoms can include one or more of the following:

  • Runny nose (usually clear fluid)
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Swollen eyes
  • Watery eyes

 Best ways to reduce hayfever symptoms without needing anti-histamines

It’s absolutely safe to take anti-histamines and many now don’t cause drowsiness, although they can affect people in different ways. Anti-histamines are also very effective in treating hayfever symptoms but for many, they’d rather support their body without the need for medication. If this is you, then try out some of our suggestions below.

Eat local honey

It’s thought that eating honey from local bees and plants can help build your resistance to pollen. Try adding a spoonful of local honey to your porridge or mixed with hot water, lemon and ginger in the lead up to hayfever season.

Use Vaseline

There are specially designed products which are a balm which you can apply around your eyes and under your nose to trap pollen and therefore lesson the amount of allergens affecting you. However, you can use any balm and something like Vaseline works just as well – just dab lightly around your nose and eyes, and reapply with clean hands after you wipe your nose or eyes.

Eat lots of ginger

Ginger is renowned for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. If you’re a busy kind of person, invest in ginger tea-bags but if you’ve got time and want a better result, grate an inch of ginger into pre-boiled warm water and drink with a teaspoon of honey – maybe you can use the local honey!

Add green tea to your diet

Did you know that green tea not only blocks the production of histamine, which is responsible for triggering allergic symptoms but it can also boost the immune system too. Enjoy a cup up until lunchtime – it contains caffeine so don’t drink it too late!

Drink peppermint tea to clear your nose…

If you also get a bunged up nose when you suffer from hayfever, peppermint tea can help clear blockages.

…And inhale eucalyptus

Eucalyptus works in a similar way to peppermint tea but is much more powerful. Just add a few drops of eucalyptus to a bowl of hot water and breathe it in with a towel over your head for maximum effect.

Keep eyes clean

It’s so easy to succumb to the ‘itch’ but the more you touch your eyes, the more itchy they’ll become and the more red and sore. Plus, you can make your symptoms worse, especially if you’ve got dirty hands – this could lead to infection. If you’re an uncontrollable eye-itcher, have an eye wash kit to hand so that you can cleanse eyes when required.

Keep your cool

Hot weather, plus pollen and a runny nose or itchy face can make you feel hot and bothered and this can cause stress levels to rise and really impact your state of mind. Keeping cool can help relieve the itchiness and soothe sore noses so when you can, take a cool shower, splash cold water over your face or if possible, have a cold pack nearby for when you need instant on-the-go relief.

In the UK, we often complain that we barely get a ‘summer’ so hopefully these tips will help you make the most of it, even if you suffer from hayfever!