Hayfever is a very common condition, affecting 2 to 3 million people in Britain every year. It is caused by an allergy to pollen or sometimes mould spores. In hayfever the body’s immune system over reacts to the presence of external substances, as if they were something toxic. This results in irritation and inflammation. Read all about it in detail now, the facts and the reliefs…
Dr Caroline M Shreeve
Hayfever is such a common complaint that most people know its symptoms. You have to have had the experience though to know exactly how wretched it can make you feel. To make matters worse, treatment can occasionally make it worse. Decongestant nasal sprays and drops tend to lose their effect after several days of continuous use and may harm the delicate lining of the nasal passages, making the symptoms worse.Certainly, not all, antihistamine drugs have a strongly sedative effect. This is the last thing you want if you are studying and needing to feel not only physically fit, but mentally alert and able to concentrate.
As all hayfever sufferers know, attacks are commonest and most severe during the months of late spring and early summer. This is also the time when you are most likely to be sitting examinations and wanting to study hard. The best way to see that revision time and examination performance are not marred by watery eyes, sneezing and sniffing attacks or a blocked stuffy nose, is to get to know what triggers your attacks and what preventative measures you can take.
This article sets out to give the facts about hayfever and about how to stop it interfering with your exam chances.
Hayfever is a form of rhinitis which means inflammation of the lining of the nose. It is seasonal and caused by an allergy to pollen. Approximately three million people in the UK are thought to suffer from it and there is a tendency for hayfever to run in families. Men are affected more than women although the reason for this is unknown.
Pollen allergy can appear at any age, but tends to be worse among teenagers and young adults. Some people get symptoms for five or six consecutive seasons and then never have another attack, while others suffer season after season for up to twenty years. A small minority of sufferers go on to develop bronchial asthma and/or nasal polyps (swelling in the mucous lining of the nose.)
Attacks generally start suddenly. Frequent sneezing is associated with an intense itch inside the nose, occasionally more on one side than on the other. The feeling has been compared to having sniffed itching powder or hot chilli pepper as the mucous membranes feel ‘hot’ as well as irritating. Some people even develop lines across the lower parts of their nose from habitually rubbing its tip to relieve the itching!!!Soon after the irritation starts, watery fluid begins to flow freely down the nose, making frequent wiping a necessity. Even with the use of soft tissues, the repeated skin friction can make the sensitive area around the nostrils and upper lip sore, red and chapped.
Itchy, watering eyes and a tickling feeling in the throat are also frequent symptoms. Bright lights make matters worse and the tendency to rub the eyes makes them swollen and bloodshot. Soon a blocked nose and the necessity to breathe through the mouth at least partly, completes the picture.
Hayfever symptoms can last from a few hours to several days, depending upon the weather, the pollen count and other factors such as the sufferer’s emotional state, stress level and the general state of health.
Strictly speaking, only an allergy to pollen can produce hayfever. This is why ‘hayfever proper’ occurs only during the pollen-producing months of spring and summer. Some people suffer from hayfever symptoms all the year round and this condition, known as perennial rhinitis, is considered in a later section of this article.Every year, several thousands of tons of tree and grass pollen are released into the air during the spring and summer months. It is in this way that pollen, produced by plants for the purpose of fertilisation, is able to reach its required destination of another plant of the same species.
The wind is responsible for much pollen transport however, and it is windborne pollen that causes hayfever. Highly coloured and strongly scented flowers rarely play a significant part in this process. This is because they attract insects and are pollinated by the insect population that visits them. It is the lighter and more bouyant pollen of trees, grasses and weeds that are more likely to cause symptoms.
Plantain and other common weeds are often responsible for hayfever symptoms. Once one of these pollens causes you allergy problems, the rest are likely to do so as well. That is why hayfever often starts as early as March and continues until July or August.
Spring hayfever is caused mainly by tree pollens and the more severe summer variety by grass pollens with weed pollens triggering symptoms in the late summer and the autumn. Pollen (and mild spores) follow a seasonal pattern year after year, but vary with the geographical location.
The quantity of pollen produced depends on the weather, symptoms tending to be worse on hot, dry, windy days. This is the reason why hayfever tends to affect suffers most severely during June and July. These are the months when the grass pollens are most abundant, responsible for four million working days lost per year in the UK. This is about twice the number of working days lost as a result of industrial injuries.
The weather, in fact plays an important part in the production of pollen grains. In 1986, the pollen counts were higher than they had been for twenty-one years, registering over a thousand in contrast to the average of 190. Experts believe that the very cold spring firstly delayed the growth of flowers and that the subsequent mild weather made many species of flower bloom simultaneously, thereby releasing masses of pollen grains.
This is a closely associated condition, producing much the same symptoms as hayfever. In all, it is estimated that about six million people in the UK (that is a tenth of the population) are affected. Sufferers complain of having an almost permanent head cold but it is necessary only to experience symptoms for an hour or more out of twenty four on most days of the year for perennial rhinitis to be diagnosed.So distressing can the perpetual sneezing, nose blowing, eye irritation and nasal stuffiness become that it is understandable that sufferers feel as though they are never free from them.
The most prominent symptom in perennial rhinitis is nasal blockage, affecting five out of ten sufferers. Sneezing and watery nasal discharge affect three out of ten sufferers, but eye symptoms and itchy throat are less common in many cases of this condition than they are in pollen-allergy hayfever.
Hayfever can cause perennial rhinitis during the spring and summer months. Allergic rhinitis due to causes (allergens) other than pollen also accounts for many cases. These include fungal spores, animal dander (scurf) and house dust.
While it is an excellent idea to consult your doctor about troublesome hayfever and perennial rhinitis symptoms, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate your symptoms in a natural drug-free way which will in no way conflict with any treatment your doctor may prescribe.
It is even possible to reduce the frequency with which you experience your attacks, if you are willing to take a little time and trouble sorting our your own “trigger factors”. Whatever your job or life style, this is well worth aiming at. If you are a student faced with weeks of revision and important exams it could make all the difference to your results and to your future.
For allergic rhinitis, including hayfever, prevention is in most cases better than cure. Here are some ways of avoiding some of the more common allergens.Keep a daily record of your symptoms and compare this with the pollen count. You will soon get to know whether your hayfever is really due to pollen allergy.
If your are affected in this way, avoid open fields and freshly mown lawns, however inviting!
Try to stay indoors when the pollen count is high. Wearing dark glasses if you must go out on dry, warm breezy days will help to protect your eyes.
If animals affect you, avoid visiting friends with cats or dogs and if you have pets yourself, keep them out of the bedroom at all times.
House dust may be your problem – dust and vacuum daily, not forgetting soft furnishings and curtains which should be washed or dry cleaned monthly.
The minute animal called the house dust mite, living within house dust, is responsible for much allergic rhinitis. They are too small to be seen and tend to inhabit mattresses, pillows and other bedding. A sheet of plastic film over your mattress may help. Always air beds daily too, stripping them right back and exposing the bottom sheet to the fresh air. Keep bedroom windows at least partly open always, unless pollen is your problem.
Deep freeze your pillows! The house dust mite dies at temperatures lower than 10 degrees Centigrade. Simply rotate the pillows you use, through your freezer, allowing several hours for them to thaw before you re-use them. Probably not the best of ideas though to sleep straight on them after freezing…
Never use feather mattresses or duvets.
Turn the central heating off in your bedroom at least during the night. Try increasing the humidity in various rooms you use during the day by placing a bowl of water in them.
Experiment with ventilation too, to find out what suits you best.
A change in diet is found by many sufferers to help. A balanced whole food diet which avoids junk foods and additives will improve your overall state of health and resistance to stress, whatever the allergen causing your attacks. When the chemical additives in processed foods or other dietary items are themselves to blame, improvement is often dramatic.Many natural therapists recommend hayfever sufferers to drink mineral water and diluted freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice for the first two days of an attack and a light diet to be followed for several days thereafter. By this they mean fresh fruit and raw vegetables, with herb tea or spring water to drink.
The avoidance of mucous forming foods is also thought highly of as a form of hayfever treatment. These include white flour, white sugar and their products, refined, processed foods, including ‘doctored cereals’, fried food, animal fat, dairy products, chocolate, cocoa, salt, tea, coffee and alcohol.
Emphasis should be placed upon raw or lightly cooked fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-wheat flour and its products, nuts, eggs, fish and white meat.
Natural therapists also recommended certain food supplements for hay fever, including garlic capsules, vitamins A, C and E and seaweed products.
How Your Doctor Can Help
Recent surveys have shown that only about one in three perennial rhinitis sufferers (and that includes all the hayfever victims) go to their doctor about their problem. The majority buy over the counter remedies such as decongestant nasal drops and sprays, several million of which are sold by pharmacists annually.These are fine for a short-term relief, however you may find that their effect wears off after three or four days. In addition “rebound congestion” can sometimes occur with over use, causing swollen nasal mucous membranes similar to the condition you used the product for in the first place.
It is better to seek active medical help from your doctor, than to run the risk of misusing sprays and drugs that might make your symptoms worse.
However long-term use of any drug should be avoided wherever possible and if the side effect is drowsiness it is a serious impediment if you are sitting for exams or trying to study hard!
New Era Hayfever Remedy
There is a remedy for hayfever which has several advantages. It is made from natural ingredients. Its active ingredients are safe. So safe that even very young children can take it. It does not cause drowsiness and it will not conflict with any other medication. It is easy to take. It has been tried and tested over many years and has stood the test of time.It is New Era Hayfever remedy, Combination H, which has been formulated to give relief from the symptoms of hayfever and allergic rhinitis.
There is no cure for hayfever but if you or anyone in your family suffer from this seasonal allergy, this article may help. Written by a doctor, it explains exactly what hayfever is and gives some useful hints on a life style which could help you cope more easily, plus some sensible ideas about diet.
The advice in this article is relevant to all hayfever sufferers, so please take time to read it and try to follow the advice. And remember, to help ease the discomfort of hayfever, New Era’s Hayfever remedy is the natural choice.
Dr Caroline M Shreeve