For many of us, the end of winter means the excitement of being able to spend more time outside, but for those who suffer from hay fever, the warmer days of spring can also signal the onset of puffy itchy eyes, congestion and an irritating cough.
According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, affects around 50 million people in the USA. To those of you who are one of the 50 million, follow these top tips to help get you through the allergy season.
SEVERITY AND CAUSE
The first step is to look at the severity of your hay fever, then to identify the cause so you are able to reduce exposure levels. According to The Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) 2008 Report, those who suffer from symptoms less than four days a week or less than one month a year are mild sufferers, and those who suffer symptoms more than this are classed as moderate to severe sufferers. Conditions such as asthma can also be exacerbated during allergy season for severe sufferers, so identification of potential triggers is key to reduction of symptoms. Some potential triggers are pollens from trees, grass and weeds, dust mites, mold and animal dander, as well as the debris from cockroaches.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, when an allergen such as pollen comes into contact with the moist lining in your nose and sinuses, your body responds by releasing histamine, causing an inflammatory response in the lining and triggering increased production of mucous. Try to avoid the urge to rub or touch your nose and wash your hands often with soap and water. Vacuum often, preferably using a HEPA filter, and keep windows and doors closed during high pollen and mold seasons. When going outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to try to prevent pollen from getting into eyes.
In a study published in Nature Medicine, researchers found that a diet high in fibre protected against allergic inflammation in the lung and influenced the levels of inflammation. Another study, this time in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Allergy, has shown that alcoholic drinks are also associated with an increased risk of developing perennial hay fever among women drinking more than 14 drinks per week compared with women drinking <1 drink per week.
Over the counter decongestant sprays can be effective but shouldn’t be used for more than a day or two. If congestion isn’t your main symptom, look at other ways to reduce inflammation in the body. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, essential fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, which when taken long-term basis, can help to keep both your immune system and mucous membranes healthy. Oxidative stress has been shown to occur as a result of inflammation and research suggests antioxidants can help. Comvita Olive Leaf Extract is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger, with five times the antioxidant activity of an equivalent amount of Vitamin C.