If you have been waking up with an itchy throat and ears, red eyes and find you can’t stop sneezing, you’re not alone. This week, some parts of the UK reached the hottest temperatures of the year so far, and warmer weather poses threat to hay fever sufferers. 1 in 4 Brits suffer from hay fever, double that of the mid 80’s where 1 in 8 were affected by the allergy.
Symptoms of hay fever can be experienced in autumn, spring and summer, but mainly in the warmer seasons. Hay fever is an allergic reaction to pollen; pollen is a fine to coarse powdery substance made up of pol
len grains, which are male microgametophytes of seed plants. These produce male gametes (sperm cells) and so are used in the plant reproductive cycle. The Met Office provide a pollen count; if the pollen count is high, the higher the chance of hay fever symptoms appearing, and the more severe these symptoms can become.
Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses (small air-filled cavities behind your cheekbones and forehead) to become swollen, irritated and inflamed. Tree pollen is released during spring, grass pollen is released during the end of spring and beginning of summer and weed pollen is released in late autumn.
Symptoms of hay fever include runny eyes and nose, sneezing, itchiness, feeling run down and sometimes the general feeling of a common cold.
Young people are more susceptible to hay fever, although symptoms can develop at any age. As the weather gets warmer, students may find themselves taking their revision outside, and some people with severe hay fever may feel their productivity at work or studies is negatively affected.
Airborne allergies expert, Max Wiseberg comments, “Exams are stressful enough, without the added worry that you could drop a grade if the weather conditions are against you. So if the weather is warm and sunny – ideal conditions for pollen production – it could mean the difference between pass and fail or achieving a coveted first class degree.” So how can we still enjoy the sun whilst preventing the onset of symptoms?
Reducing the amount of pollen getting into your body can reduce or even stop hay fever symptoms. Everyone can tolerate a certain amount without reaction; but once this amount is exceeded – called your trigger level – hay fever symptoms will start to occur. So if you stay below this level, your symptoms won’t be triggered and so won’t affect your exams.
The NHS suggest:
- taking a shower and changing your clothes after being outdoors to remove the pollen on your body
- staying indoors when the pollen count is high (over 50 grains per cubic metre of air)
- applying a small amount of Vaseline (petroleum gel) to the nasal openings to trap pollen grains
Avoid keeping fresh flowers in the house, cutting grass, smoking inside and drying clothes outside. Vacuum regularly, ideally using a machine with a high-efficiency particle arresting (HEPA) filter. Damp dust regularly and try to keep pets out of the house during the hay fever season, or wash them regularly to remove any pollen from their fur.
Using a saline nasal spray to relieve symptoms by clearing the nose of pollen can help. HayMax organic drug-free allergen barrier balms can be applied to the nostrils and around the bones of the eyes in the morning, throughout the day and at night to trap more than a third of pollen grains, as well as dust and pet allergens, before they enter the body.
Perhaps the most obvious tips are the most effective. Make sure you treat your symptoms as best you can, and look after yourself whilst the pollen count is high this spring.