Hay fever is a stressful and debilitating condition that is anticipated and dreaded by many whenever a change in season comes around.
Hay fever can interfere with daily functioning and can often lead to desperate measures in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms.
For those susceptible, hay fever brings a sense of dread with each change of season. However, a combination of healthy eating, good lifestyle habits and nutritional and herbal supplementation may help alleviate the symptoms.
What is hay fever?
Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction of the nasal passages and airways to wind-borne pollens. Hay fever shares many common features with asthma:
1. The spring type is triggered by tree pollens
2. The summer type is triggered by grass pollens and weed pollens
3. The autumn type is triggered by weed pollens
Signs and Symptoms
As the pollen season begins, the nose, roof of the mouth, throat and eyes gradually or abruptly begin to itch. This is generally followed or accompanied by teary eyes, sneezing and clear, watery nasal discharge. There may also be frontal headaches and irritability.
Other symptoms may include loss of appetite, depression and insomnia. The eyes appear red and the inside of the nose is often swollen and bluish red. Coughing and asthmatic wheezing may occur as the season progresses.
Hay fever and the pollens responsible are generally identified through a case history taken by your health practitioner. Physical findings and eosinophils (a white blood cell produced in the bone marrow) in the nasal secretions support the diagnosis, along with skin tests to confirm or identify the responsible pollens.
Conventional Treatment and Risks
Symptoms may be reduced by avoiding the allergen, but this is not always possible. Many medications such as antihistamines, pseudoephedrine, intranasal glucocorticoid spray and corticosteroids can provide symptomatic relief.
However, the side effects of some of these medications can include drowsiness, raised blood pressure, headache, dizziness, difficulty falling asleep, irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath.
Lifestyle tips that can help
- Avoid airborne allergens and allergy-proof the house.
- Remove dogs, cats, carpets, rugs and other surfaces that collect allergens.
- Cover bed mattresses in allergen-proof plastic.
- Wash sheets, blankets, pillowcases and mattress covers every week in hot water with an additive and fragrance free detergent.
- Use hypoallergenic bedding materials.
- Install an air purifier in the home such as a HEPA (high efficiency particulate arresting) filter.
- Eliminate food additives and common food allergens from the diet such as eggs, shellfish, nuts, peanuts, milk, chocolate, wheat, citrus and food colourings.
- Increase fruits and vegetables.
- Eat cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. These are high in Omega-3 essential fatty acids which improve airway responsiveness to allergens.
Elimination of common allergens during infancy has been shown to reduce allergic tendencies in children with a strong family history.
Herbs and Nutritional Supplements
Herbs such as Horseradish, Marshmallow and Fenugreek can be used to help decrease congestion, reduce allergic symptoms and soothe irritation.
Vitamin C can be important to help with lung health and may also support the immune system and respiratory function in relation to hay fever, allergy and other infections. Individuals who are prone to allergy and inflammation may find it helpful to take 1-2 of grams of vitamin C daily to alleviate symptoms.
Horseradish has been shown to be a natural herbal decongestant with some antiseptic properties and can have a strong stimulating anti-catarrhal action that can help eliminate mucus.
Garlic is a pungent and heating herb that may enhance circulation and can be helpful as a natural antiseptic and decongestant.