With the Chelsea Flower Show in the Borough and pollen levels three times higher than usual this spring, people with hayfever up and down the country will be desperately looking for ways to combat their allergies.
Around a quarter of people in the UK have hayfever, and the ranks of sniffing sufferers are increasing in number. They will be all too familiar with the symptoms – sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes are caused by an allergic reaction to pollen from grass, weeds and trees. Hayfever is the result of your immune system overreacting to the allergens these plants produce, and the symptoms can severely disrupt your concentration and make it difficult to sleep.
Here are my top tips to help you reduce the symptoms of hayfever. Listen out for the daily pollen forecast, and try to stay indoors with the windows and doors closed when the pollen count is high.
Antihistamine tablets, which can be bought from your local supermarket or pharmacy, may help to calm sneezing and dry up a runny nose.
Eye drops can be used on itchy and sore eyes, while an antihistamine or decongestant nasal
spray may help ease the discomfort of a blocked nose. Stay away from grassy parks and fields, especially in the early morning and evening when the pollen count is at its highest.
Take a shower and wash your hair after going outside, and dry your washing indoors to make sure no pollen gets trapped in your clothes or hair.
If your symptoms are still driving you to distraction, you could even try putting a small amount of Vaseline up your nostrils. As funny as it sounds, this trick can reduce the amount of pollen that gets in to your nose and may help to alleviate some of the unpleasant symptoms of hayfever. I’ve tried it myself, so I know it works!
If it’s grass pollen that’s the cause of your plight, you may be able to take a grass pollen extract in the form of a tablet that you put under your tongue. The first dose will need to be taken under medical supervision in case of an adverse reaction, but taking this tablet every day for at least four months before the start of the summer pollen season can dramatically reduce the symptoms of hayfever, ensuring a high pollen count doesn’t blight your enjoyment of the summer.
If you’re still battling hayfever after exhausting these self-help methods, it might be worth consulting an allergy specialist to discuss the option of immunotherapy. This treatment option usually involves having injections of the pollen that you are allergic to over a period of three years, enabling you to tolerate higher levels of the allergen and reducing the severity of the allergic reaction.
Hayfever shouldn’t stop you enjoying the blooms at the Chelsea Flower Show, so arm yourself with eye drops and antihistamines and get down there – those flowers are too good to miss!
Mike Markiewicz is a consultant paediatrician at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, who specialises in allergies. For more information, please visit www.bupacromwellhospital.com and click on his consultant profile.