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Six Natural Ways to Treat Hay Fever

When stocks of over-the-counter remedies run low, there are alternative methods to keep symptoms at bay.

The Telegraph

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In 2022, it was the perfect pollen-fuelled storm; a nationwide shortage of hay fever drugs as everyone faced days of high allergen levels. Mid-May marks the crossover point where the tree pollen season ends, and the fall of grass pollen begins, making it one of the worst times of year for sufferers. And that year, stocks of chlorphenamine maleate (the active ingredient in over the counter remedies like Piriton) were running low with retailers warning that shelves could remain bare when the UK’s 16 million sufferers need help most.

Taking medication early on in the season is a crucial first step, according to the UK’s NHS, which recommends that antihistamines are taken as a matter of course, rather than on days where symptoms are particularly troublesome. Beginning two weeks ahead of when you’d typically start noticing a runny nose or itchy eyes yields most success; once the body’s production of histamine, a chemical response to pollen, begins, it can be harder to stop it. 

If you can't get hold of over the counter remedies, here are six methods to try: 

How to treat hayfever

1. Desensitise

High doses of the pollen you’re allergic to, administered via injections, tablets and sprays, can help the worst-affected sufferers, according to Dr Adam Fox, a paediatric allergist at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. These are designed to reduce inflammation, which in turn “retrains your immune system to be less responsive to pollen”. He warns that “while it’s not a cure, it’s a very effective treatment” – one more commonly doled out across other European countries. In the UK, NHS access to such treatment can be limited, but Fox says paying for it privately costs around £80 per month. 

2. Avoid outdoor mornings

Pollen counts are highest in the mornings and at dusk, rising with the warming air at the outset of the day, and again when it cools down. Going outside in the middle of the day instead is, in the UK, the way to avoid aggravating symptoms. 

3. Wash your hair at night

While research is yet to confirm its efficacy, “experts believe hair washing at night helps hay fever,” Fox says. This is because the pollen trapped in hair over the course of a day will, if unwashed, transfer to your pillow, which means “you’ll then rub your face in it during the night”. He also suggests wearing wraparound sunglasses during the day to act as a barrier towards pollen on the move. 

4. Be beside the sea

“The air is better ventilated” at the seaside, according to Fox. Distance from trees and grass, the main distributors of pollen, means beaches are likely to make life easier for hay fever sufferers. Rain can also be beneficial, as it washes pollen away. 

5. Relax

During periods of stress, the body releases hormones and chemicals including histamine, which can provoke allergy symptoms. Becoming stressed by the onset of hay fever can also worsen its effects; relax by taking a (daytime) walk, or reading a book.  

6. Mask up

Experts warn this may require trial and error, but face masks may help limit the amount of pollen able to latch on. Recent research from Israel found that almost 40 per cent of severe allergy sufferers experienced fewer symptoms, such as sneezing and a stuffy nose, after wearing surgical or N95 masks over a two-week period. For those with moderate symptoms, 30 per cent saw improvements when wearing a surgical mask, compared with 40 per cent who wore an N95. Just over half of those with mild symptoms said theirs improved when wearing either mask.

“Masks should be worn by all pollen allergics when outside,” says Dr Glenis Scadding, a consultant allergist and respiratory specialist. As well as protecting the wearer from pollen and pollution, they also “protect society from Covid, since asymptomatic Covid may be present in people with allergic rhinitis who are prone to sneezing.”

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This post originally appeared on The Telegraph and was published May 12, 2022. This article is republished here with permission.