FOR many the warmer weather will come as a welcome relief, especially after the recent cold snap.
However, if you’re one of the 15 million people in the UK affected by hay fever, you may not want to hang up your hanky just yet.
An allergic reaction such as hay fever can best be explained as an excessive reaction to a normally harmless substance.
The immune system identifies the harmless substance as dangerous and produces an antibody called IgE, which then triggers the production of histamine.
Histamine is an inflammatory chemical that causes the unpleasant symptoms we associate with hayfever, such as swelling, mucus formation, and itching/burning in localised areas such as the throat, nose and eyes.
In the case of hayfever it is usually a type of pollen or spore from a plant that triggers the problem.
In the UK grass pollen is the biggest trigger, affecting approximately 95 per cent of hay fever sufferers.
Not surprisingly most people tend to suffer mainly during the spring and summer months, when grasses and flowers come into bloom.
Needless to say, a high pollen count can soon put a dampener on a lovely spring day.
If you are prone to hay fever you may find it beneficial to take the following precautions:
• Keep your body as free from toxins as possible by eating wholefoods and avoiding junk.
• Keep your caffeine and alcohol intake low and avoid nicotine.
• If you live in a polluted area or work with chemicals or in traffic-ridden areas, do regular detoxes to keep your system clear. Simple steps such as drinking plenty of water and keeping your bowel moving daily will reduce the toxic load on your system.
• Avoid dairy products because they cause mucus formation that exacerbates hayfever symptoms.
• Keep your intake of refined sugar low, as hay fever sufferers are more likely to have wobbly blood sugar and be sensitive to refined sugar.
Having sugar can trigger a surge in blood sugar levels that then precipitates a dramatic drop that can then cause adrenalin production, which involves the production of histamine – just what you don’t want!
• About two months before your known hay fever time, start taking Echinacea twice daily to improve your body’s ability to identify harmful substances correctly.
This will not only reduce your allergic reaction to the trigger substance, but also improve your resistance to real bugs such as colds.
• About two weeks before your usual symptoms kick in, start taking Luffa twice daily.
Luffa helps to combat sneezing, blocked and runny noses. It is a yellow tropical plant that is usually used with a variety of other plants to help combat the symptoms of hay fever and similar allergies. It is often teamed with Galphimia glauca for example, which is especially useful for reducing irritation of the eyes.
Try Luffa tincture or tablets from A. Vogel.
Luffa can be taken every two hours during an acute attack; a nasal spray is also available for immediate relief.
As far as diet is concerned, vitamin C supplements and quercetin (found in onions, apples and black tea) can also help as they both have antihistamine activity.
Likewise, vitamin B can help relieve blocked sinuses.
Check prevailing winds and pollen counts and remember that wind dried clothes can become pollen catchers.
Hanging clothes inside will keep them pollen free.
And finally, don’t be an early bird! Yes, you read correctly, getting up early can make your symptoms worse.
I’m not advocating you lie in when you have to get up for work or school, but pollen counts tend to peak between 5am – 10am, so try to limit outdoor activity during the morning hours when you’re most likely to be affected.
HAY FEVER FACT FILE
• It is estimated that 15 million people in the UK are affected by hay fever and 95 per cent are affected by grass pollen.
• Pollen causes cells to release histamine and other chemicals, resulting in a runny, itchy nose, blocked sinuses, sneezing, redness and watering of the eyes, and/or a sore, itchy throat.
• Many people believe that local honey has an anti-histamine effect. Although it’s not a solution that works for everyone, the pollen that is naturally present in the honey is thought to have a desensitizing effect.
• If you have been out for the day, get undressed in the bathroom, not the bedroom. There may be pollen on your clothes and you don’t want it floating around the bedroom starting you sneezing at bedtime!
• For further advice, speak to Laura Williamson and her team at Castletown Health and Beauty Store in Malew Street. Call 825812.