About 1 in 5 Australian’s suffer from hayfever. For anyone who has experienced seasonal allergies or hayfever, you’ll understand the discomfort and inconvenience that comes along with not being able to escape the symptoms. But what is it? How do you know it’s not a cold and what can we do to prevent it?
We take a look at some more obvious to the lesser knows ways you can manage seasonal hayfever.
What is hayfever?
Hayfever is the common name for allergic rhinitis. It’s an allergic reaction to allergens or triggers in the air which sets off an immune response caused by our bodies mistaking the allergen for something threatening like a virus or bacteria.
Symptoms include a runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, sinus pressure or facial pain, irritability, fatigue and even sleeplessness.
How do I know it’s hayfever and not a cold?
While both cause a runny nose, a cold will also leave you congested and stuffy. Allergy symptoms appear faster than a cold and don’t usually present with aches and pains or a temperature. Allergies are also more common during the warmer months when pollen is in the air.
What can I do to help my hayfever?
Avoiding your triggers is the best option. Sounds simple, but is it actually possible? Here’s a few more practical tips that might be of benefit:
- Stay ahead of the weather – download a weather app that includes pollen counts in their forecasts to help you plan around the worst days of the season. And close up your home and office on particularly windy days!
- Try nasal irrigation – the use of warm, salty water through the sinuses has been shown to effectively reduce symptoms. Use a neti pot (like a small teapot) or visit a pharmacy for saline sprays and conventional versions. A hot shower can have a similar effect and will also help wash off any residual pollens that come home with you.
- Seek out local honey – seasonal hayfever is often triggered by air-borne pollens, the same ones that end up in our honey. By eating a little bit every day, you can decrease your sensitivity to pollens in your area through stimulation of blocking antibodies.
- Switch the swimming pool for the beach – chlorine by-products have been found to aggravate hayfever while swimming in salt water can benefit your sinuses.
- Arm your body with nutrients – while some foods can trigger allergic responses, others can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to fight back. Check out our list below.
Fighting back with food
Here’s a few nutrients that can help support your health and prevent seasonal allergies. Start loading up on these foods prior to peak allergy season or consider making them part of a balanced diet year-round.
- Bromelain – the enzyme bromelain has strong anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in pineapple. It may help break down mucous and ease the nasal congestion associated with hayfever. Make sure you eat the core of the pineapple; this contains the highest amount of bromelain.
- Vitamin A – beneficial for maintaining the health of mucous membranes, think vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.
- Vitamin C – As well as supporting our overall immune health, Vitamin C possess antihistamine benefits. Natural sources include oranges, red capsicum, kiwi and strawberries.
- Omega 3 fatty acids – The anti-inflammatory properties of omega 3’s work by blocking the inflammation pathway that causes symptoms associated with hayfever. Foods with good sources of omega 3’s include salmon and walnuts.
- Quercetin – Flavonoids, such as Quercetin, are a group of plant pigments that give many fruits and vegetables their colour. Quercetin is also a natural antihistamine and can prevent the release of histamine that happens when you come into contact with an allergen. They can be found in several fruits and vegetables including citrus, onions, apples, grapes and broccoli.
Don’t go it alone
There are heaps of natural and over the counter medications available designed to manage hayfever symptoms – speak with your GP, health professional or pharmacist about which ones might be right for you. Remember different medications tackle different types of allergies and the therapeutic effect of natural supplements and foods may take longer to be noticed so don’t be dishearten if you don’t find instant relief. Try instead to focus on small improvements and the positives of the season like warmer weather and longer days.
The article is intended to provide general information and is not a substitute for medical advice. If you have concerns about your health, are experiencing symptoms or are considering making changes to your diet or lifestyle, we recommend consulting with your GP or trusted health professional.