How to keep your hay fever in check this spring

Pharmacist and Master Herbalist Gerald Quigley discusses hay fever and how to protect yourself from ‘thunderstorm asthma’ as shared on The House of Wellness Radio.

Hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, is characterised by sneezing, running nose, swelling of the sinus mucosa, itching of the eyes and lots of tears.

Hay fever is the common term for allergic rhinitis due to the seasonal spread of pollens in the air. The disease, however, is not only seasonal and may result from exposure to antigens other than pollen.

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Tune into The House of Wellness Radio to hear Gerald discuss the link between uncontrolled asthma and hay fever.

Common antigens that cause symptoms in susceptible individuals include house dust, animal hair, broken insect parts, fungus spores, mould feathers, powders, insecticides and many grass pollens.

Approximately 5 to 15 per cent of individuals are susceptible or have a capacity to react to inhaled allergens. These individuals are more prone to viral infections, as well as having a higher risk of contracting asthma.

Sinusitis may also develop due to bacterial infection that then becomes associated with impaired drainage of the nasal mucosa. Symptoms of this condition include local pain and tenderness of the overlaying facial skin, headache and possibly fever.

Treatment options for hay fever

Treatment involves avoidance or reduced exposure to the offending antigen, thus reducing the immune or inflammatory response, desensitisation by stimulating other classes of immunoglobulins and improving immunity.

Nutritional treatment options include:

  • Eliminate the offending antigen from your environment. If dander from cats or dogs is responsible, avoid contact with these animals. If nasal polyps are present, check for salicylate and aspirin sensitivity.
  • Increase consumption of fish oils.
  • Use garlic and horseradish in cooking.
  • Introduce propolis into the diet. This may decrease sensitisation to pollens by orally stimulating the blocking antibodies.
  • Drink two cups of fenugreek herb tea each day.
  • Ginger extract may have some benefit as it has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Test for milk sensitivity.
  • If you are sensitive to ragweed, eliminate watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, zucchini, cucumber and bananas from the diet. All these foods share a common allergen to ragweed.
  • Avoid exposure to diesel fumes as it sensitises the nose to pollens. Oxides of nitrogen can destroy the cilia in the throat and hence encourage the accumulation of mucous.
  • Remove carpet and feather bedding to improve symptoms caused by dust mites. To kill the mites, wash all clothing in hot water above 58C.
  • Air filtering vacuum cleaners should be used to clean the house.

The weather patterns give meaningful clues as to how bad the symptoms of hay fever may affect most people. Days of warm stable weather followed by windy, stormy and wet cool changes usually bring on acute symptoms a few days before the change actually arrives.

Controlling hay fever symptoms

Regular daily dosing of a tablet form of natural antihistamines, like fenugreek, odourless garlic, vitamin C, marshmallow and horseradish seem to establish a barrier to the release of the mediators of the symptoms of hay fever. Increasing the dose often prevents the problems in the few days prior to the cooler change. This combination is an ideal way to switch from regular doses of the non-sedating antihistamines, to an occasional dose of the antihistamine, usually needed because the higher dose of the preventatives was not started early enough.

Careful scrutiny of the weather patterns, along with the trends in the pollen count, will often give the necessary clues as to the developing risks of hay fever problems. Doses of the natural preventatives of one tablet twice a day, increasing to two tablets twice a day (perhaps even two tablets three times a day on the hot northerly wind days) as the weather patterns develop, will allow greater comfort to even the most severe sufferer.

Antihistamines are divided into two groups – older, sedating drugs and newer, less sedating drugs. Individual response to specific antihistamines varies widely; it may be necessary to try a number of agents to see which is best tolerated and most effective. Most antihistamines are for short term treatment.

Your blood sugar levels will not be affected by these hay fever treatments. However, these levels should be monitored more carefully when you are trying to cope with allergic responses. In theory, some herbs can affect blood sugar. In practice, we just don’t see these effects.

It’s best to relax and take control. Use the natural therapies to help prevent the problems and when needed, use one of the less sedating antihistamines to relieve any breakthrough symptoms.

Protecting yourself from thunderstorm asthma

It’s important to keep an eye on the weather forecast, especially when there’s a hot spell followed by a windy, stormy change. This type of weather is a fertile environment for allergic symptoms that lead to asthma.

This is when we often hear of “thunderstorm asthma”.

Simple strategies can reduce your risk and include:

  • Regular use of strictly isotonic saline that contains no preservatives to ensure good mucous layers in the nose.
  • For the fair skin, freckled person, a sesame oil nasal spray coats the sensitive areas of the nose, protecting them from allergenic material associated with wind.
  • Horseradish, garlic and vitamin C is a traditional combination that can be taken as a preventer, but the dose needs to be increased when the forecast is apparent.
  • Quercetin is a wonderful antihistamine, and is an effective alternate option to other drug-based treatments.
  • Adequate hydration is important at all times.

For more information on Thunderstorm Asthma, see Asthma Australia.

Note: Your Chemist Warehouse Pharmacist will help with the most appropriate way of helping you control your hay fever.

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