When you should be enjoying picnics at the park, barbecues and long walks, you’re suffering with itchy, watery eyes, a runny nose and constant sneezing. Making it worse is the fact that sleeping at night with a stuffed up nose is near-impossible, so you wake up feeling tired and cranky too. Thankfully, there are some very effective treatments for hay fever – nasal sprays, tablets and even injections – but if you’re looking for natural ways to keep the sneezes at bay, here are some useful techniques to use.
Draw the curtains
A key aspect to preventing hay fever symptoms is to keep the house cool. “Pollen rises with heat and by shutting out sunlight your home should stay cooler,” explains sleep expert John Bramm of premium mattress brand Octaspring.
Dab Vaseline around your nose
Rub a little Vaseline on and around the edges of your nose before you go out
Some pollen will stick to the Vaseline, preventing it from causing your allergic symptoms to worsen. Steer clear of polluted areas. Air pollution increases the severity of hayfever symptoms so while a trip to the city might seem like a good idea, it’s just as likely to result in sneezes and itchy, watery eyes.
Know your allergy
Try to find out exactly what kind of plants you’re allergic to and avoid areas with lots of those.
For example, in the UK around one in four people with hayfever are allergic to pollen from birch trees. These are releasing pollen earlier in the year, starting in March in the South, April in the north of England and Scotland. Symptoms usually last around four weeks.
For other allergies, the seasons are:
- tree pollen - late March to mid-May
- grass - mid-May to July
- weeds - end of June to September
For flower allergies, each will cause allergies depending on when it blooms.
The most allergenic plants include:
Least allergenic are:
Skip the booze
Drinking makes you mildly dehydrated which makes it more difficult for your body to flush out pollens and keep your nasal passages and mouth moist.
Cover your bed
Stop dust and pollen in the air from settling on your bedsheets by covering it with a sheet or something similar during the day. “Remove the sheet gently and fold it up before you get into bed at night,” says Bramm.
Close your windows
“Pollen is normally emitted by plants between 5am and 10am each day, so sleep with your windows shut,” says Bramm.
Have a shower before you go to bed each night to wash any pollen out of your hair and off your skin. And try a shower with eucalpytus. “Eucalyptus is great at clearing the sinuses and soothing the throat,” says Bramm. “By the time you get out of the shower you will be breathing freely.”
Squirt or rinse
Saline sprays help keep your nasal passages moist, which helps remove pollen and prevents you getting too stuffy too. “Squirt saline spray up your nose right before you go to bed,” says Bramm. You could also try a Neti pot. These help rinse out your sinuses by moving water into one nostril and out of the other, using saline solution, and so will flush out any pollen before you sleep.
Use a humidifier
Dry air exacerbates symptoms and helps pollen move around freely, moist air does the opposite. Of course, using a humidifier may make you unbearably hot so an alternative is to spray the room lightly with a fine water mist.
Do your laundry more often
Bramm also recommends washing your bedding more often to remove pollen and dust there. “Sheets should be washed at a minimum temperature of 60° since hot water has been proven best at killing dust mites, removing dog hair and tree pollen from materials,” says Bramm. And dry your clothes and towels indoors if possible, to avoid pollen collecting on wet things on the line.
Advice for hay fever sufferers from the College of Optometrists
- Avoid your exposure to pollen, by closing windows and keeping surfaces clear with a damp duster, especially at the start and end of the day when pollen levels are highest.
- Wear sunglasses when outside, which can help to protect your eyes from dust and pollen.
- Visit your optometrist or pharmacist for advice and to get medicated eye drops to help alleviate itching and swelling.
- If you wear contact lenses, remember to check if you can use the drops when you are wearing your lenses.
- When the pollen count is very high, it can be more comfortable to wear spectacles rather than contact lenses.
- You may also feel more comfortable by avoiding wearing contact lenses when you are gardening, particularly when mowing the lawn, as grass particles and pollen can become stuck behind the lens and cause discomfort.
- If your eyes become dry, seek professional advice from your optometrist, pharmacist or GP. They may prescribe lubricating eye drops to ease the dryness.
Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, Clinical Advisor at the College of Optometrists, said; “With an increase in temperature, we are likely to see pollen levels rise. While trying to avoid pollen as much as possible will help lessen the symptoms, sufferers can also visit their optometrist to get medicated eye drops to help alleviate the itching and swelling.
"In terms of long-term hay fever management, often people don’t realise that using eye drops before their symptoms appear can minimise the impact of hay fever on the eyes. So, if you know which type of pollen you are allergic to, you can consult the College’s infographic and take the appropriate medication ahead of time to help prevent the symptoms developing or lessen the affect.”