The Met office have warned there could be high pollen levels this bank holiday weekend, so they want to help hay fever sufferers bust all the myths surrounding the very common health complain. After a survey of 2,000 Brits was conducted, it's shocking to learn what the majority of us thought helped our allergies!
A spoonful of honey a day will keep hay fever at bay
- 61% think this is true
- However, there is no scientific evidence to support this. The belief is that a spoonful of honey helps desensitise you to pollen, bees don’t pollenate trees or grass so this is very unlikely to be the case.
A pescatarian diet will help reduce symptoms of hay fever
- 80% said this was blatantly false but it may actually be true
- A recent study by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a diet rich in Omega-3 is associated with reducing symptoms. Perhaps not a cure, but potentially worth trying.
Tree pollen dispersal is highest when it rains
- 40% think this is true
- Tree pollen season traditionally lasts from late March to mid-May and during this time, if it rains, it’s good news for hay fever sufferers as this lessens the chance of dispersal for this type of pollen. Conversely, rain can worsen pollen levels during grass pollen season (mid-May to July) so it’s not always a good thing.
There is more pollen in the countryside than urban area
- Many believe that this would be the case but it is false
- Urban areas tend to have lower pollen counts than the countryside, but pollen can combine with air pollution in the city centre and bring on hay fever symptoms. It’s not just in the summer months either; it can peak as early as April and May.
How to combat hay fever this weekend, as advised Lloyds Pharmacy:
- The first thing to do is check the Met Office’s pollen forecast to check if the pollen count is going to be high before you go out.
- Keep windows closed when at home and overnight. Most pollen is released in the early morning and falls to ground level in the evenings when the air cools.
- When outdoors, wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes. Hay fever sufferers can experience itchy eyes when coming into contact with pollen spores.
- Avoid drying your clothes outside when pollen counts are high. If you do, shake items before bringing them inside.
- Keep car windows closed when driving and fit a pollen filter to reduce the impact of pollen grains.
- When indoors, there are a number of useful tips to reduce the impact of hay fever symptoms such as: vacuuming regularly, avoid bringing fresh flowers indoors, and be aware that pets can bring pollen in on their fur.
- Don't allow smoking in the house as this will irritate the lining of your nose, eyes, throat and airways, making your hay fever symptoms worse.
- After being outside, shower and wash your hair to remove pollen.
Warmer days, greener grass and leafy trees are all signs that summer is just around the corner – and a cue many of us take to start making ‘alfresco’ plans. This year, get ahead of the pollen season early so that you are ready to enjoy all that summer has to offer.
Whether you're a seasoned sneezer or an itchy eyed weeper, the weather has a lot to do with your hayfever symptoms. The pollen count is usually higher on sunny days – particularly if it follows straight after a few days of cloud– as the pollen builds up in the flowers and is released when the sun shines at its brightest.
Rain on the other hand, can bring relief for some of us as it washes the pollen from the air. But there's no need to start crossing your fingers for a wet and soggy summer just yet. Instead, just getting ready early could help make all the difference.
Angela Chalmers, a Boots UK Pharmacist, recommends the earlier the better as a good rule of thumb for hayfever preparation. And this doesn't have to be a big chore, either. Just simple preparations to ready yourself and your medicine box will help.
Angela recommends you:
- Speak to your pharmacist now so they can determine the right treatment for your symptoms. This way you can sort out an effective routine before the pollen count rockets
- Stock up on a nasal spray. You want to use this throughout the season to make it work effectively -not just when your nose starts twitching! It's also a good idea to have some eye drops, irritated eye mist and one-a-day allergy relief tablets (if they're suitable for you to take) in your medicine cabinet ready for when the hayfever hits
- Start using eye drops ahead of time to help reduce your symptoms
- Remember that sunglasses can help relieve your hayfever symptoms too so be sure to include these in your prevention plans. They make a physical barrier to the pollen around your eyes (which are so sensitive) and are an easy, hassle-free way to stay protected on the school run with the grandchildren or when nipping to the shops
Figuring out exactly what triggers your hayfever and at what time of day will also help you tackle the problem. Dr Catherine Pashley from the University of Leicester explains that it's actually not always pollen that's the culprit. A lesser known cause of our hayfever symptoms is fungal spores which are found in damp, musty conditions - such as rotting leaves, grass cuttings and compost heaps. This means a summery wander through the woods, even on a day when the pollen count is low, could trigger your symptoms.
Garden sheds are a prime place for growing mould – but fungal spores can also be found in your kitchen, bathroom, basement, or even the back of your wardrobe, so you may find your symptoms come on just when you’re doing a spot of gardening, DIY or housework.
But whether it's those spores from your wardrobe or freshly cut grass that sends you streaming for the tissues, it's important to find the best treatment for you.
"There isn't a one-size-fits-all for all of us with hayfever" says Angela. "But the best thing to do is to have a conversation with your pharmacist who can tell you the best treatment options for you and your family. A non-drowsy treatment- like a nasal spray- is most likely going to be better for your grandchildren, especially if they're going through exam season, for example, but your pharmacist will be able to tell you what else might be suitable for their age.
If hayfever affects your sleep, you could consider taking a sedating antihistamine which will keep troublesome ymptoms at bay throughout the night – but check with your pharmacist to make sure it is suitable, especially if you're taking any other medication."
If you have asthma, you'll also need to take some special extra measures to stop hayfever making your asthma symptoms worse. Speak to your pharmacist to help you get control of your asthma in the summer season. Alternatively, you can book a free medicine check up at Boots to help make sure you're getting the best from your medicines.
- There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.