And with temperatures to rise soon, there’s potential for the pollen count to soar, causing symptoms to worsen.
Whether you regularly suffer from hay fever or are experiencing it for the first time, there are certain things you can do to prevent and treat symptoms.
Here are the top tips from experts on how to stop hay fever in its tracks in 2021 and enjoy the summer - including unusual tips you may not have thought of.
‘There is no cure for hay fever’
Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen, when it comes into contact with your mouth, eyes, throat, or nose.
Up to one in four people currently suffer from hay fever in the UK, with symptoms varying in severity and dependent on weather conditions and pollen count.
Symptoms can include sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red and watery eyes or a cough. The pollen allergy can also be a trigger for patients who have eczema or asthma.
According to Phil Day, superintendent pharmacist at Pharmacy2U, prevention is better than cure when it comes to hay fever, and there are certain things you should do to reduce your exposure to pollen in the first instance.
This includes taking simple measures such as keeping windows closed at night or the car window closed whilst driving.
And while there’s no cure for hay fever, there are plenty of treatments you can get over the counter, says Mr Day.
He comments: “Eye drops and nasal sprays are available over-the-counter and can be combined with antihistamines or taken on their own.
“As with antihistamines, prescription strength treatment is available for more troublesome symptoms.”
Certain food and drinks can prevent or trigger symptoms
It may come as a surprise that certain foods and drinks can also help prevent the symptoms of hay fever, whereas some can actually be a trigger.
Dr Dan Bunstone, Chief Medical Officer at Push Doctor, suggests eating a spicy meal to help with hay fever symptoms, such as a blocked nose.
Spicy chilli peppers can help to widen your airways and make it easier to breathe, while other spices, such as turmeric, are natural anti-inflammatories that will help relieve your symptoms.
A flavanol called quercetin, which studies have shown can suppress histamine production can also help, adds Dr Bunstone.
Foods that are high in quercetin include green vegetables, berries, beans and apples.
“Eating foods rich in beta carotene (carrots, spinach, any yellow fruit) and omega 3 (oily fish) are two more ways to soothe your blocked nose and painful sinuses,” adds
However, airborne allergens expert Max Wiseberg explains that chocolate and alcohol both contain histamine, with the chemical setting off allergy symptoms in your body.
“So whilst you might not want to give these up completely, reducing your intake might help,” says Mr Wiseberg.
You should also avoid dairy drinks, as these may encourage the body to produce mucus, which doesn’t help if you suffer from hay fever. Instead, drink water, fruit tea, herb tea or any non-caffeinated tea.
Heidi Nisbett, from Billericay Herbal Medicine suggests taking a herbal approach to control both the symptoms and the allergic reaction triggered by inhaling pollen.
Herbal antihistamines can help to reduce the release of histamine, with one of the most familiar of these being the stinging nettle.
Ms Nisbett suggests pouring boiling water over about two teaspoons of nettle leaves, or buying nettle tea from your local health store.
The same can also be done with ginger, which has been found to have anti-allergic components.
She adds: “Medical herbalists also select herbs to dry up catarrh, for example elderflower which is abundant in the UK in spring. We combine these with herbs that reduce the irritation in membranes of the inner linings of the nose, eyes and throat, such as ribwort and eyebright.
If you’re taking any medication it’s always best to consult a qualified medical herbalist before self-medicating with herbs.”
‘Alleviate symptoms of hay fever’
Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click, also says that to a certain extent, exercise can help to reduce the symptoms of hay fever.
Hay fever symptoms can be aggravated by stress, but exercise can help to reduce stress, so by exercising “you can help to lower stress levels which in turn, can alleviate symptoms of hay fever,” explains Mr Kanani.
However, it’s a good idea to exercise indoors during the morning and late afternoon, as pollen counts are generally highest around these times.
Another tip is to wear daily contact lenses instead of monthly or bi-weekly ones during hay fever season.
This is because by replacing the lenses daily, you’ll guarantee that you’ll be applying pollen-free lenses, explains Alastair Lockwood, eye health specialist and ophthalmologist at Feel Good Contacts.
However, “if you would rather stick with your monthlies or two weeklies, just take extra care to thoroughly clean and store them overnight in contact lens solution to get rid of any tiny bits of pollen that may have accumulated,” adds Mr Lockwood.
What else can I do to prevent or reduce my hay fever symptoms?
Experts at King Edward VII’s hospital note a number of other ways you can help to prevent or treat the symptoms of hay fever, which can be adapted depending on your lifestyle:
- Check the weather forecast to monitor the pollen forecast
- Plan outdoor trips for when pollen is at its lowest level
- Avoid walking on freshly cut grass or in wooded areas
- Stay indoors as much as possible when pollen counts are high and keep windows and doors closed
- Shower and wash your hair at the end of each day
- Remove your clothes as soon as you get home, washing items as often as possible
- Don’t dry clothes outside as they’ll pick up more pollen
- Keep your home as free from dust as possible and vacuum regularly
- Wear wraparound sunglasses as they offer your eyes and the areas around your eyes protection from pollen in the air that could cause irritation
- Put Vaseline inside each nostril when outdoors, as this traps the pollen
- Take a steam bath to clear pollen grains from your nose
- Avoid introducing pollutants into your home, such as from smoking or burning smoky candles, as this can make hay fever symptoms worse
- Consider using an air purifier with a filter in your home and car
- An air humidifier may also help