Hay fever is often the one downside to summer. An allergy to pollen can cause a wide range of disruptive symptoms, including sneezing and coughing, a runny or blocked nose, and itchy, red or watery eyes. For some people, avoiding cut grass or taking an antihistamine first thing in the morning doesn’t cut it. According to Mayo Clinic, these often overlooked treatment options may help to ward off the allergy.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy). If medications do not relieve your hay fever symptoms or cause too many side effects, your doctor may recommend allergy shots (immunotherapy or desensitisation therapy). Over three to five years, you’ll receive regular injections containing tiny amounts of allergens. The goal is to get your body used to the allergens that cause your symptoms, and decrease your need for medications.
Immunotherapy might be especially effective if you’re allergic to cat dander, dust mites, or pollen produced by trees, grass or weeds. In children, immunotherapy may help prevent the development of asthma.
Under-the-tongue (sublingual) allergy tablets. Rather than getting shots, you have tiny amounts of allergen in pill form dissolve in your mouth, usually daily.
Rinsing your sinuses. Rinsing your nasal passages with distilled, sterile saline (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.
Look for a squeeze bottle or a neti pot — a small container with a spout designed for nose rinsing — at your pharmacy or health food store. To make up the saline irrigation solution, use water that’s distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered using a filter with an absolute pore size of 1 micron or smaller. Also be sure to rinse the irrigation device after each use with similarly distilled, sterile, previously boiled and cooled, or filtered water and leave open to air-dry.
According to the NHS, other quick fixes include:
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting into your eyes
- Shower and change your clothes after you have been outside to wash pollen off
- stay indoors whenever possible
- Keep windows and doors shut as much as possible
- Vacuum regularly and dust with a damp cloth
- Buy a pollen filter for the air vents in your car and a vacuum cleaner with a special HEPA filter
- Understanding the risk factors can also help to control symptoms. There are a number of surprising culprits that can cause a flare-up, such as eating certain fruits and nuts.
“When pollen counts are high, your body is ultra-sensitive to anything that resembles your allergen, and unfortunately, the proteins in fruits and pollen are like Mary-Kate to Ashley,” explains Jacqueline Eghrari-Sabet, M.D., founder of Family Allergy and Asthma Care in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
For example, people with birch or alder tree allergies may swell up from munching on apples, carrots, celery, hazelnuts, peaches, cherries and pears. Also, grass allergies could cause a reaction to eating tomatoes. If you don’t want to give up your favourite fruit, cooking or peeling it usually solves the problem, suggests Dr Eghrari-Sabet
Research also identifies a link between alcohol consumption and hay fever, said Dr Oz: “More than one drink per day was associated with stronger allergic reactions. That may be because regular alcohol intake causes abnormal immune response.” Try cutting down or avoiding alcohol when symptoms are particularly severe to see if it makes a difference, he adds.
hair is a pollen magnet, added Dr Oz, so if your locks are long, consider an updo that you can tuck under your hat when allergy season is in full effect, he said.
It is also important to rid your jacket of pollen with a lint brush or a good shake before stepping indoors, suggests Catherine Monteleone, M.D., associate professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and a board-certified allergist.
“You don’t want to skimp on laundry or bathing during prime allergy season,” adds Dr Eghrari-Sabet.
Practicing good sleep hygiene may also reduce the risks. “Become a shower-at-night person during allergy season or at least wash your hair and face before crawling into bed,” advises Monteleone.
“That way, you won’t slumber the night away with pollen irritating your skin and airways, and you’ll wake up less puffy and congested. And never go to sleep without changing out of your daytime clothes,” she added.
It is also important to take medication before symptoms show up – this is usually too late, said Dr Oz. “Some allergy medications can work prophylactically, so your best bet is to ambush your allergies before they strike,” explains Dr Eghrari-Sabet.