Ah, hayfever season– hello old enemy! You're back again, just in time for summer, to make our lives insufferable, what with all the sneezing, itching, eye-watering, blocked noses, skin blotches, and-and-and...
This year, however, we're not going to take it lying down. Or even standing up. In fact, we're not going to take it at all. We reveal exactly what hayfever is, how you can avoid getting it, and if that's not possible, how to get rid of it.
So where you've been asking, 'What are the symptoms of hayfever?' 'Where can I get the hayfever injection?' or 'Does honey help hayfever?' here's all the answers to your most asked questions.
What is hayfever?
Hay fever is an allergy to pollen, specifically grass pollen. Indeed 95% of hayfever sufferers are allergic to it. Not only that, but it's often caused by an allergy to tree pollen and weed pollen too.
Why? Well, a hayfever sufferer's body identifies pollen as harmful to its immune system. Therefore, when it comes across it, it will attempt to expel it – normally via sneezing. It then also releases a number of chemicals to fight the spread of what it (incorrectly) believes is an infection. Thinking about it, it's all quite adorable really, but nonetheless still intensely irritating. Because it's those chemicals that cause the wretched watery eyes and runny nose and all the rest of it.
Interestingly, according to Experimental Researches on the Causes and Nature of Catarrhus Æstivus, hay-fever or hay-asthma symptoms were [first documented in England in 1819](Experimental Researches on the Causes and Nature of Catarrhus Æstivus) - the first country to ever do so.
What are the symptoms of hayfever?
According to the NHS there's a pretty lengthy list of hayfever symptoms:
Sneezing and coughing
A runny or blocked nose
Itchy, red or watery eyes
Itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears
Loss of smell
Pain around your temples and forehead
When is hayfever at its worst?
Generally speaking, on those hot, dry and dusty days between March and September. Tree pollen is released between March and May, grass pollen between May and August, and weed pollen, from June to September. So if you're a sufferer, you may as well stay in bed for all those sunny months. Sigh!
What is the 'pollen count'?
Wondering why hayfever is so bad this year? You'll have the pollen count to thank for that. The 'pollen count' is the measurement of the number of grains of pollen identified per cubic metre of air. You'll hear about it a lot on weather forecasts. The higher the number (or count), the more hayfever sufferers will suffer. 50 is considered low, whereas 1,000 is considered high.
How do you avoid getting hayfever?
Sometimes it's nigh on impossible. However... there are a number of things you can do to keep the worst of it at bay.
1.) Don't sit in fields of long grass (pretty obvious)
2.) Sleep with your windows shut at night to stop the pollen getting in
3.) Stay indoors when the pollen count is high
4.) Alcohol worsens hayfever as it contains histamine – a chemical that sets off allergy symptoms – so it's best avoided
5.) Wash your hands and face regularly
6.) Avoid pet fur and cigarettes; tobacco smoke can set off symptoms too
7.) Dry your clothes inside
8.) Go to the beach – very little pollen to be found there!
What is the hayfever injection?
If feel you're struggling more than most with the symptoms of hayfever, your GP might refer for immunotherapy. According to the NHS, this means you'll be given 'small amounts of pollen as an injection or tablet to slowly build up your immunity to pollen.' If you're looking into this kind of treatment then consider starting it in the winter for the most effective results.
Over-the-counter hayfever medicines
Remember to contact your local GP before trying new medication. Whether it's best hayfever tablets, the best hayfever nasal spray, or even the best hayfever eyedrops, here's all you need for some well deserved hayfever relief
Containing Cetirizine Hydrochloride (from the antihistamine group of medicines) one pill a day is
Eye drops can go a long way to soothe and calm sore, irritated eyes. Gently squeeze a drop of the
Hayfever sufferers will know the stress of an itchy nose. This nasal spray helps to alleviate some
If you've not yet considered trying lozenges as part of your hayfever prevention kit, then
5. Optase Cooling Eye Mask
If your hay fever symptoms feel their worst in the evening then a cooling eye mask can be an
Excessive nose blowing? It's never good. Save irritation with these tissues - they're designed to
Natural hayfever remedies
There's no getting away from it entirely – and we want to be honest with you about that – but there are some things you can do/eat (natural things) to help at least limit some of hayfever's tiresome effects.
DISCOVER: Natural Hayfever Remedies
Eat lots of Vitamin C
Oranges, lemons, limes – basically all citrus fruits – eat 'em! They have been proven to prevent the secretion of histamine, and as they also contain bioflavonoids – which have strong anti-allergy effects – they work as antihistamines too.
Got a blocked and bunged up nose? Chomp on a chilli – that should clear it. (Or, you know, just eat some curry.)
Wear cucumber patches
Might look silly, but when they cure those itchy eyes – WHO'S LAUGHING NOW? The cucumber's got to be fridge-cold though.
Eat more honey
Apparently the bee pollen in honey can (we said 'can') de-sensitise your body to other pollens too. Worth a try – especially if the only solution to your early morning sneezing fit is to chomp on a gigantic croissant.
Drink chamomile tea
Chamomile contains flavonoids and as such, is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. Best drunk as tea, but can be used as an eyes compress too.
Drink Gin and Tonic (sort of)
First thing's first - we're certainly not advocating this as the ultimate hayfever cure. It's not. However...research identifying the alcohol types that are more likely to trigger allergy symptoms suggests that that clear spirits (like your crisp G&T) are a best. This is because they're particularly low in histamines and sulphites. So if you really must have a tipple...make it this one.
Remember good old Vaseline
Dab a spot beneath your nostrils to catch that pollen trying to get in. Can't hurt, can it?!
And a reminder - if you're really struggling with your symptoms, make a point of booking in with you GP or pharmacist - they're there to help.