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Summer hell

Some people dread the summer because their hay fever returns, making June and July misery months. But what can you do about it?

What is hay fever?

“Hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is an acute, allergy-related condition that affects one in 10 people in Ireland,” says Jacqueline Newson, Nutritional Therapist for liposomal vitamin C supplement, Altrient C. “It is most common in children and teenagers, but can develop at any age producing symptoms that include sinus issues such as a runny or blocked nose, frequent sneezing and red, itchy, watery eyes. This type of allergy happens when the immune system responds to triggers such as pollen and releases histamine. Most hay fever is due to pollen from grass which peaks from early June to mid July, however tree pollen can also cause it and mould spores and weed pollen can also trigger symptoms. For an unfortunate few, symptoms occur all year round, this is known as perennial allergic rhinitis and is usually due to indoor allergens such as pets, dust mites and indoor moulds.”

Health store advice

“We get a lot of people coming looking for help with hay fever and allergies,” says Martha Brennan from Harvest Fare in Blessington, Co Wicklow. “It is definitely more pronounced as pollen begins to rise, but while hay fever is very clearly identified, allergies to dust, animal fur/hair, mould, perfumes and foods are common all year round.”

“Rebuilding resistance is always better than symptomatic treatment for hay fever and allergies,” says Sally Smith from Open Sesame in Ennis, Co Clare. “Antihistamines should be a last resort – it’s better to improve gut health through diet and probiotics and heaps of vegetables. Eating local honey from the exact region where you live can help hay fever symptoms. We have a local homeopath who makes up a remedy based on the relevant pollens. We love oregano spray and capsules as oregano improves gut health as well as clearing the airways.”

“A susceptibility to allergies really needs to be addressed beyond the acute symptoms,” says Martha Brennan. “Diet and lifestyle balance need to be looked at. Omega 3 intake should be optimum. Probiotics and high dose vitamins C and D boost the immune system. We often recommend a complex containing quercetin. Kyolic garlic and echinacea are also good, spirulina is known to block histamine and an urtica tincture can help where the skin breaks out in hives. Some people find homeopathic remedies euphrasia, urtica or allium cepa work great for them. It does take time to build up a resistance to the allergen.”

Food for thought

“Eating a diet rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids and antioxidants is key – a good reason to load up with a colourful range of fruit and veggies,” says Jacqueline Newson. “However, there are some foods that should be avoided if you’re susceptible to allergens. Shellfish, matured cheeses, red wine, spinach, strawberries and chocolate naturally contain high levels of histamine, so over-indulging in these could aggravate symptoms.”

“Cut out dairy as much as possible,” says Sally Smith, “it creates mucus for a lot of people. And drink plenty of water.”

Super supplements

According to Jacqueline Newson, “Quercetin is a bioflavonoid found in foods such as onions and apples that can be invaluable during the pollen season because of its ability to stabilise the activity of histamine. Bromelain, a natural digestive enzyme derived from pineapples, helps with the absorption of quercetin and together they also help to break down the build-up of mucus, often associated with hay fever. Vitamin C is another of nature’s handy helpers useful for reducing the likelihood of flare-ups.”

“It is difficult for the body to absorb large amounts of vitamin C all at once due to tightly regulated absorption controls within the body,” says Jacqueline Newson. “I recommend liposomal supplements to my clients, as this safeguards the vitamin through the digestive system to ensure a 98% absorption rate, directly to the cells where it is needed. With a vitamin C supplement, it is better to take a small dose all year round, upping the dosage during the spring months when pollen is most prevalent.”

Other natural help

  • Eyebright is a useful herb for itchy eyes and general eye irritation. Available in capsules, homoeopathic remedy and eye drops.
  • A combination of vitamins C, B6 and zinc help to reduce histamine levels.
  • Nettles have antihistamine action. Drink nettle tea or take a nettle tincture several times daily.
Tinctures available from health stores that can help hay fever include:
  • Chamomile – an anti-inflammatory that boosts the immune system.
  • Echinacea – an anti-inflammatory herb that enhances the immune system.
  • Elderflower – helps to dry up mucus in your nose.

Unfiltered raw local honey contains pollen grains which can help mild hay fever symptoms. Check with your local health store or farmers’ market, see or buy pollen capsules or pollen granules to sprinkle on food.

Ask your local health store for a combination homeopathic remedy for hay fever symptoms.

Top hay fever tips

• Try to reduce your exposure to pollen before the season reaches its peak.

• Wear wraparound sunglasses when outside to help keep pollen away.

• Wear a mask when mowing the lawn.

• Vacuum regularly to help keep pollen levels in your home low.

• Keep your windows shut at night and early in the morning. Check out pollen forecasts.

• Use a natural pollen barrier around your nostrils to trap pollen, dust and pet allergens before they get in.

• Use a salt pipe – these carry salt particles that penetrate the respiratory system, cleansing the airways and helping to expel mucus.

• A salt air purifier disperses dry salt micro-particles into the atmosphere as you sleep, helping to open the airways, clear excess mucus and reduce inflammation.

• Wash your face and hands regularly.

Top allergy tips

• Instead of dusting, wipe away dust with a damp cloth.

• Wash your sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers every week in a hot wash.

• Open the windows for at least an hour every day.

• Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity between 30-50% in your home.

• Make some rooms cat- or dog-free-zones by closing doors.

• Groom cats and dogs outdoors.

• Put away any objects or ornaments that you don’t need because they just gather dust.

• Go for wooden, tiled or linoleum floors and wipe-clean blinds instead of carpets and curtains.

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare practitioner.

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