10 surprising ways to ease hayfever
Springtime isn't all happiness and cherry blossoms for some: the 1 in 7 Australians who are hayfever sufferers. Skin itchiness, sore eyes and nasal congestion can make the simple act of stepping outside an anxiety-inducing prospect.
Short of closing windows and doors and living in a bubble, what's the solution? Antihistamines might seem like the obvious choice, but some types can have an unwanted drowsy effect - and of course, not everyone wants to take medication.
Instead, try these clever natural solutions to enjoy this beautiful season to its fullest.
1. Petroleum jelly
A great insider tip is to apply a smear of petroleum jelly around your nostrils to help trap pollens before they get in. If you’d like a natural alternative, some people swear by Pawpaw ointment for the same thing.
Promising research is showing that “good bacteria” (ie. from probiotics) may in fact reduce the body’s immune response to grass pollen.
Increase your intake of good bacteria by eating yogurt and other foods boosted with probiotics, or you can take a supplement.
3. Natural anti-inflammatories
Mother Nature has given us an abundance of delicious foods chock full of anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. Incorporating some of these foods, herbs and teas into your diet may help boost your immune system and counter the effects of hayfever season.
- Kiwi fruit
- Licorice, nettle and chamomile teas
- Orange and green fruit and vegetables
- Horseradish and garlic
- Hot peppers and chillies
Some people swear by essential oils, too – try eucalyptus as a steam inhalation for nasal congestion. Or a few drops of lavender oil on a cold facewasher and apply to the face as a compress to provide instant relief and ease red, blotchy skin.
4. Locally-grown honey
Some people consider local honey a good remedy for hayfever. The theory is that eating local honey desensitizes the body to local pollen, so that the pollen does not trigger allergic reactions come hay fever season (honey contains traces of pollen, however it's the heavy-grained type which doesn't trigger allergies in the human body). If you want to try it, two tablespoons each day is recommended, ideally started 2-3 months prior to hayfever season.
5. Saline nasal spray
A natural alternative which can provide on-the-spot relief, saline nasal spray can be a godsend for those affected by hayfever. Natural saline sprays keep the nasal passages moist and balances the PH level of the nasal tissues. This helps the nose more effectively do its job of keeping dust and pollen out. Plus the saline itself rinses away nasties you’ve breathed in, and helps ease congestion.
6. Bare feet
This tip is so easy, but so many people forget: take off your shoes inside. You’ll save dust, pollen and other particles from being traipsed through every room of the home (and as a plus, you’ll need to vacuum less often). Changing your clothes when you get home is a good idea too!
7. Night showers
If you’re in the habit of showering in the morning, it might be worth swapping to night. Wash your body and hair before you go to bed, or after playing outdoor sports, to wash off any pollen which has attached itself during the day.
Increasing the humidity in your home, office or bedroom at night can help allergies in three ways: first, it helps ease that nasty congestion by keeping nasal secretions liquid, and easy to expel. Secondly it keeps the nasal passages moist which helps the cilia (the little hairs in the nostrils) do their job of expelling pollens and other irritants. And thirdly, humidity can actually help weigh down the pollens themselves, so they’re unable to travel as easily through the air.
For these reasons a humidifier is a great investment for those with grass pollen allergy - although you do need to be careful if allergic to dust mites or mould spores, two allergens which can increase in very high humidity. A room humidity level of 40-50% is considered ideal to help allergy related symptoms.
To read more about humidifiers and allergies, click here.
It’s nothing to sneeze at - a survey undertaken by the National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit of more than 2,000 people with hay fever, found those who exercise have the mildest symptoms. Exercise relieves stress too, which has been linked with worsening hayfever.
Aim to do 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cycling and fast walking, every week. However, during hay fever season, it's best to avoid exercising outdoors when the pollen count is high. Late morning or early afternoon are when pollens are usually lowest. But if daily pollen counts are really high, stick to indoor exercise, for example at your local gym or swimming pool.
10. Pollen count apps
Along with your box of tissues, the new pollen count apps for smart phones could be your new best friend this allergy season. If PC’s more your style weatherzone.com.au gives accurate daily updates. Be aware and be prepared on the days you need to go out when there’s high pollen count, so you can put into action some of the management tips above.
The advice in this article is of a general nature for information only. If symptoms persist, see your doctor.