Top Ten Tips for Hay Fever Sufferers by Wendy Green

 Summer should be the time when we all enjoy the great outdoors, but for around one in five people in the UK it is blighted by the misery of hay fever. Common symptoms include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, sore, itchy, gritty, watery eyes, a sore, itchy, nose and throat, face pain and headache, as well as an inability to concentrate, low mood, disturbed sleep and even asthma.

 Hay fever is thought to affect three times as many people now as it did during the seventies. Experts blame a number of things for this increase, including higher standards of hygiene in our homes, the over-prescribing of antibiotics, global warming, pollution, our diets and our increasingly stressful lifestyles.  However, you can cut the number and severity of attacks by reducing your exposure to pollen, improving your diet and managing stress. Supplements and natural remedies may also help.


1. Reduce your exposure to pollen

 You can find daily pollen forecasts from March to September in newspapers, on the radio and on television and weekly forecasts on the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit’s website:

Take the following steps to reduce your exposure to pollen when you know a high pollen count is forecast and during peak pollen release times (7am-10am and 4pm-7pm):

 Keep your windows closed, or consider buying an air conditioning unit, an air purifier or an air filter, to reduce pollen levels in your home. Wipe down surfaces and vacuum regularly, preferably using a cleaner with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filter, to keep your home pollen-free. Dry washing indoors rather than outside, where pollen will stick to it. Pets can carry pollen in their fur so ask another household member to groom or wash them when they have been outdoors. After being outdoors change your clothes and take a bath or shower to rinse away pollen from your hair and body. Avoid mowing the lawn or gardening, or wear a pollen mask to prevent pollen inhalation through your nose and mouth. Smear vaseline around and just inside your nostrils to form a barrier that traps pollen.

 Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen and sunlight, which can trigger sneezing. Swap contact lenses for glasses, or choose daily or disposable types, as pollen can collect on them. Avoid wearing mascara as pollen sticks to it – have your eyelashes dyed instead. Rinse pollen from sore, irritated eyes using chilled, distilled water.  Drive with your car windows closed. Use the air conditioning system on ‘re-circulate’ mode instead and consider installing an in-car air filter, air purifier, or pollen filter.

 2. Improve your diet

A poor diet, lacking in essential vitamins and minerals, may raise the risk of developing hay fever. Some nutritionists believe that eating too many dairy foods and sugary and refined foods leaves the body unable to deal with everyday substances like pollen and increases the production of mucus, which worsens symptoms. Try eating less of these foods for a couple of weeks to see if symptoms improve.

 However dairy foods are a major source of calcium, which is essential for a healthy nervous system, as well as strong bones and teeth, so if you decide to eat fewer in the long-term you need to eat alternative sources. Non-dairy calcium providers include tinned sardines eaten with the bones, apricots, dates, figs, almonds, brazil nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, watercress, leeks, tofu and soya – soya milk usually has added calcium.

 Replace refined and sugary foods such as white bread, biscuits, pastries with whole grains such as such as granary bread, porridge, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice, and fruit and vegetables such as apples, pears, oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots and sweetcorn. Swap sweets and cakes for a few squares of 70 per cent cocoa dark chocolate.  Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables also provides antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E. Antioxidants are thought to neutralise the effects of pollution and to help maintain a healthy immune system

 3. Eat foods containing quercetin

Eating foods like red onions, berries, red grapes and red apples may help because they contain quercetin, an antioxidant that has been shown to help prevent hay fever. Quercetin is thought to work by preventing the release of histamine. It’s also believed to stabilise cell membranes, so that they are less likely to react to allergens like pollen.

 4. Control your stress levels 

A study at Ohio State University in 2008 suggested that stress makes hay fever symptoms worse, so it’s important to keep an eye on your stress levels. If you feel that your life is spiralling out of control with too many demands from work, your home, your partner, your family and friends, maybe it’s time to simplify your life. If you regularly feel under pressure and stressed due to a lack of time, try reviewing how you use it. Keep a diary for a few days to see how you spend your time and then decide which activities you can cut out or reduce to make more time for the things that are most important to you. Try saying ‘no’ to the non-essential tasks you don’t have time for, or just don’t want to do.                       

 5. Have a spoonful of honey

 Taking one tablespoon of local honey daily from around one month before the start of the hay fever season is reported to help reduce attacks. It’s claimed that the tiny amounts of grass and tree pollen picked up by bees as they visit flowers for nectar find their way into the honey they produce and have a desensitising effect. The honey needs to have been produced within a ten mile radius of where you live and work to ensure that you develop immunity to the pollen you are usually exposed to. 

6.  Try and old folk remedy 

Sipping cider vinegar is an old folk remedy for hay fever. Add one to two tablespoons to a glass of water and drink two to three times a day. If you dislike the taste, try adding one teaspoon of honey, or stir it into a glass of apple or other fruit juice. 

7. Ease your symptoms with supplements                         

Try taking butterbur – a plant from the daisy family with anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest it is as effective in relieving hay fever symptoms as antihistamines, but has the added benefit of not causing drowsiness. The active ingredients are petasins, which are thought to relax the muscles and blood vessels. Make sure you choose a product that is free from alkaloid compounds, as these can cause liver damage. Try: Petadolex Butterbur Gelcaps from     

Vitamin C could also help to cut your hay fever symptoms. It’s essential for a healthy immune system and studies suggest that starting with 500 mg a day, then gradually increasing the dose to 2 g cuts histamine levels in the blood by as much as 40 per cent. Sensitivity to allergens, wheezing and mucus production are reduced. It’s best to take one 500 mg tablet four times daily, as one large dose can cause diarrhoea in some people. Try: Holland & Barrett Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids (500mg). 

Sponge cucumber (luffa operculata) is a tropical plant that appears to act as a natural antihistamine. It can reduce symptoms like sneezing, itchy, runny eyes and nose and blocked or stuffy nose, without causing the drowsiness and fatigue linked with many medications. A recent Dutch study found that 75 per cent of participants with hay fever reported a big reduction in symptoms when taking it. Try: Luffa Complex Tablets or Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray from 

8. Soothe your symptoms with essential oils 

Many hay fever sufferers claim chamomile oil’s soothing, sedative qualities ease their symptoms. Try sprinkling a couple of drops onto a handkerchief and inhale. A massage using two drops of chamomile oil to one teaspoon of a carrier oil such as grapeseed oil, can also be beneficial, as the oil is absorbed into the bloodstream. There are several types of chamomile –Roman Chamomile and German Chamomile are the most popular. 

Lemon balm oil (Melissa) also soothes and calms and can help relieve symptoms. Add one drop to a teaspoon of carrier oil for massage, or sprinkle one or two drops onto a handkerchief and inhale. 

A steam inhalation of eucalptus oil, which is a decongestant and an expectorant, helps to clear a stuffy nose and eases sinusitis. Simply add three or four drops to a bowl of boiling water. Once the water has cooled slightly, drape a towel over your face and head and inhale the vapours. Caution: Inhale the steam for just 30 seconds the first time. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the inhalation time to three to five minutes.Alternatively sprinkle two or three drops onto a handkerchief. 

9. Get help from homeopathy                         

Homeopathy is based on the idea that ‘like cures like’; substances that in large doses cause symptoms in a well person, can relieve the same symptoms, in small doses, in an ill person; Allium cepa is derived from onions and is suggested for a streaming nose, headache and sore throat. Euphrasia officinalis is made from the herb eyebright and used to relieve inflamed, itchy, watering eyes. Sabadilla officinale is used to treat a sore throat, an itchy nose and ears. Try: Nelsons Pollena – it combines all three remedies 

10.  Find relief with antihistamines  

Following the above steps might mean you experience fewer and less severe symptoms, but there are no miracle cures for hay fever, so it’s likely that there will be times when you will still need to turn to medications for relief. Antihistamines relieve hay fever symptoms by blocking the release of histamine in the body. They are available in tablet, capsule, spray, or syrup form. Nasal sprays act quickly to ease an itchy, runny nose and sneezing. Newer or ‘second generation’ antihistamines cause less drowsiness than the older ones. Try: Benadryl Allergy Relief Capsules which claim to work within fifteen minutes and Otrivine Adult Menthol Nasal Spray.


50 Things You Can Do Today to Manage Hay Fever

by Wendy Green (Paperback, £6.99) is published by Summersdale and is available now from all good book sellers.  It is part of Summersdale’s Personal Health series, which includes advice on a range of conditions and ailments.