As late Spring approaches... ACHOOO!... we have started to notice that walking through green open spaces – parks and the like – are not as... excuse us, ACHOO!... fun to do as perhaps they... ACHOO-ACHOO-ACHOO... should be.
Sorry, where were we...?
Ah, HAY FEVER SEASON – hello old enemy! You're back again to make our lives insufferable, what with all the sneezing, and the itching, and the watery eyes and the blocked nose and the blotches, and-and-and...
This year, however, we're not going to take it lying down. Or even standing up. In fact, we're not going to take it AT ALL. You hear us – ACHOO – not at all.
Here, we reveal exactly what hayfever is, how you can avoid getting it, and if that's not possible, how to get rid of it.
What is hayfever?
Hay fever is an allergy to pollen, specifically grass pollen. Indeed 95% of hayfever sufferers are allergic to it. Not only that, but it's often caused by an allergy to tree pollen and weed pollen too.
Why? Well, a hayfever sufferer's body identifies pollen as harmful to its immune system. Therefore, when it comes across it, it will attempt to expel it – normally via sneezing. It then also releases a number of chemicals to fight the spread of what it (incorrectly) believes is an infection. Thinking about it, it's all quite adorable really, but nonetheless still intensely irritating. Because it's those chemicals that cause the wretched watery eyes and runny nose and all the rest of it.
Interestingly, according to Experimental Researches on the Causes and Nature of Catarrhus Æstivus, hay-fever or hay-asthma symptoms were first documented in England in 1819 - the first country to ever do so.
When is hayfever at its worst?
Generally speaking, on those hot, dry and dusty days between March and September. Tree pollen is released between March and May, grass pollen between May and August, and weed pollen, from June to September. So if you're a sufferer, you may as well stay in bed for all those sunny months. Sigh!
What is the 'pollen count'?
The 'pollen count' is the measurement of the number of grains of pollen identified per cubic metre of air. You'll hear about it a lot on weather forecasts. The higher the number (or count), the more hayfever sufferers will suffer. 50 is considered low, whereas 1,000 is considered high.
How do you avoid getting hayfever?
Sometimes it's nigh on impossible. However... there are a number of things you can do to keep the worst of it at bay.
1.) Don't sit in fields of long grass (pretty obvious)
2.) Sleep with your windows shut at night to stop the pollen getting in
3.) Stay indoors when the pollen count is high
4.) Alcohol worsens hayfever as it contains histamine – a chemical that sets off allergy symptoms – so it's best avoided
5.) Wash your hands and face regularly
6.) Avoid pet fur and cigarettes; tobacco smoke can set off symptoms too
7.) Dry your clothes inside
8.) Go to the beach – very little pollen to be found there!
Over-the-counter hayfever remedies
The usual (and most effective) treatment for hayfever is to take an antihistamine.
Boots' One-A-Day Allergy Relief at £11.49 tends to do the trick – and quickly too.
Similarly, Benadryl Allergy Relief at £8.19 is another tried and tested option. Remember to choose 'non-drowsy' medication if you're at work, or planning to drive, or do any hectic activity later on...
To clear that blocked nose, try Beconase Nasal Spray at £5.99.
And for those watery eyes, Otrivine Antistin Eye Drops (£5.50) might help.
Whatever you do, make sure you have some tissues to hand – preferably these NPW Unicorn Tissues at £1 from John Lewis. (Because who doesn't love a unicorn?).
Remember to contact your local GP before trying new medication.
Natural hayfever remedies
There's no getting away from it entirely – and we want to be honest with you about that – but there are some things you can do/eat (natural things) to help at least limit some of hayfever's tiresome effects.
1.) Eat lots of Vitamin C
Oranges, lemons, limes – basically all citrus fruits – eat 'em! They have been proven to prevent the secretion of histamine, and as they also contain bioflavonoids – which have strong anti-allergy effects – they work as antihistamines too.
2.) Choose chilli
Got a blocked and bunged up nose? Chomp on a chilli – that should clear it. (Or, you know, just eat some curry.)
3.) Wear cucumber patches
Might look silly, but when they cure those itchy eyes – WHO'S LAUGHING NOW? The cucumber's got to be fridge-cold though.
4.) Eat more honey
Apparently the bee pollen in honey can (we said 'can') de-sensitise your body to other pollens too. Worth a try – especially if the only solution to your early morning sneezing fit is to chomp on a gigantic croissant.
5.) Slurp Chamomile Tea (slurping not necessary, drinking is fine)
Chamomile contains flavonoids and as such, is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent. Best drunk as tea, but can be used as an eyes compress too.
6.) Rememeber good old Vaseline
Dab a spot beneath your nostrils to catch that pollen trying to get in. Can't hurt, can it?!
Do all of that, and we reckon you'll be hayfever free.... ACHOOOOOOOOOOOO!