Do you love spending time outdoors but suffer from itchy eyes, a blocked nose and persistent sneezing? You might have hay fever.
There are some dietary changes and allergy-friendly habits that you can adopt, and a range of vitamins to reduce the uncomfortable side effects of hay fever. Here are some facts about hay fever!
Common questions about hay fever
1. What causes hay fever?
Hay fever is a common allergy to pollen that affects around 20% of the UK population.
It occurs when the body produces allergic antibodies (IgE) to certain substances, such as pollen, house dust mites or mould, known as allergens.
Seasonal allergic rhinitis happens because the immune system overreacts to pollen floating in the air. The result is that the body kickstarts the immune system and treats pollen similarly to bacteria or a virus attacking your body.
Grass pollen is the most common allergen (May to July), but tree (February to June) and weed (June to September) pollens can also cause the allergic reaction we know as hay fever.
The body releases a chemical called histamine – your body’s efforts to eject the allergen and prevent other pollen particles from getting in. It is a self-defence mechanism that causes the nasal passage to become inflamed.
2. What are the symptoms of hay fever?
- Itchy eyes/ throat
- Sneezing, blocked/runny nose
- Watering, red eyes
- Headaches, blocked sinuses
- Shortness of breath
- The sensation of mucus running down the throat’s back can also be a symptom called a ‘post-nasal drip’.
3. Allergy testing
Your GP or an allergy specialist can do allergy testing. It may be necessary to get a proper diagnosis, especially if your symptoms are troublesome. In some cases, you should even consider an allergen-specific treatment such as allergen avoidance or allergen immunotherapy.
4. Is it contagious?
No. Allergic rhinitis (or hay fever) is caused by your immune system’s response to allergens breathed into your body. A virus or bacteria do not trigger it, and it is not contagious.
5. Managing your hay fever
- avoid being outdoors on high pollen count days and avoid thunderstorms during the grass pollen season
- shower after outdoor activities when exposure to pollen is high
- use re-circulated air in the car when pollen levels are high
- wear sunglasses (to reduce the amount of pollen that can get into your eyes)
- dry bedding and clothing inside or in a tumble dryer.
6. What’s the best way to treat hay fever symptoms?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy cure for hay fever. Speak to your pharmacist if you have hay fever. They can advise and suggest the best treatments, like antihistamine drops, tablets or nasal sprays to help with itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and blocked nose. Call a pharmacy or contact them online before going in person. You can get medicines delivered or ask someone to collect them – so you don’t have to go outside when your symptoms are nasty.
There are lots of ways you can manage and reduce the symptoms with natural remedies.
7. Strengthen your immune system
Suppose your hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is causing you misery, and you do not see improvements in your symptoms despite regular treatment with antihistamine tablets or nasal steroid sprays from your GP. In that case, you could benefit from strengthening your immune system.
The purpose of the immune system is to defend itself and keep microorganisms, such as certain bacteria, viruses, and fungi, out of the body and destroy any infectious microorganisms that invade the body. The immune system is comprised of a complex and vital network of cells and organs that protect the body from infection.
There are several ways to make your immune system stronger. Let’s see!
8. Vitamins for allergies
Vitamin C has many critical functions in your body, but it’s probably best known for supporting your immune system. There is evidence that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) may help with hay fever. Vitamin C acts as an antihistamine and antioxidant. Studies have shown that it may decrease any symptoms of allergies. Research says histamine levels may reduce by about 38% after a person takes 2 grams of vitamin C a day (assumed).
Vitamin D has long been known to be an essential nutrient for the body, particularly concerning the absorption of dietary calcium and phosphate. Technically, vitamin D is not a proper vitamin – it belongs to the family of steroid hormones. An increasing number of epidemiological studies have linked low vitamin D levels with hay fever. Studies have also reported this about other allergies and even some autoimmune diseases. Given the crucial role of vitamin D in the immune system, the potential relationship between vitamin D and allergic rhinitis has received much interest in recent years.
One of the most common deficiencies worldwide is of vitamin D3.
9. Dosing of Vitamin C
Healthcare professionals most commonly use vitamin C for allergic rhinitis, in a dose of 2,000 mg a day. The body can’t store this vitamin, and there is minimal risk of toxicity, so it is safe to take a higher dose in supplement form.
10. Increase your intake of vitamin C
The more stress we experience, the more our adrenal glands pump out ascorbic acid, and the more likely we are to experience vitamin C deficiency. Allergens are extremely difficult to avoid during the summer months when the pollen count is high. Pollen is a widespread cause of allergic reactions.
Vitamin C is one of nature’s greatest wonders. A natural antihistamine, vitamin C, works by destroying the molecular structure of histamine, thereby decreasing the amount of histamine in the blood.
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