This years headline

This year experts are predicting a year of suffering for everyone sensitive to pollen. The reason is a long cold winter, this means that plants are playing catch up in their yearly cycles so there are going to be several pollen types about at the same time.

In an sky news article Beverley Adams-Groom, a pollen forecaster at the University of Worcester’s National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, said: “We’ve got a late start to the birch pollen season which means people have had a little bit of relief initially. But what that means is the birch pollen season is going to run into the beginning of the grass pollen season. People who are allergic to both those types won’t get any relief – they won’t have a gap. If we get good weather in June we’ll get some very high grass pollen levels – so it could be a long period of time for people to suffer.”

I have decided to write an article about Hay Fever as over the years it has effected me quite badly and along the way I have tried many things to combat the problem and I may be able to offer some help and advice to those who suffer. Already I have been answering people’s Hay Fever related questions and most of them seem to be coming from people who have never suffered before backing up the experts opinions that 2013 is going to be a troublesome year. This article is also being written for everyone and not just people with Fibromyalgia. Saying this I do appreciate how Hay Fever can be an annoying complication to people with additional health problems and it can quickly take over your life causing you further problems including sleep and outdoor mobility.

So, what is Hay Fever

My understanding is that Hay Fever is the bodies allergic reaction to airborne pollen, the body literally reacts to pollen believing it to be a virus. The symptoms are the bodies reaction and to combat it you either have to limit the pollen you come into contact with or try and tone down your bodies reaction to it, the best remedies are often a combination of these principles. Histamine is the offender in this case and a lot of treatments are refereed to as Antihistamine as a result.

More about Pollen

Pollen Types

There are about 30 different types of pollen however, in England, 90% of people with Hay Fever are allergic to Grass Pollen. However 25% are sensitive to Tree Pollen, these trees include oak, ash, cedar and birch (people with an allergy to birch often also experience an allergic reaction to apples, peaches, plums and cherries as these types of fruit contain a similar protein to birch pollen)

Annual Pollen Cycle

Different Pollens are most active at different times of the year. You can sometimes work out what Pollen you are allergic to by comparing what time of the year you react. However this year does pose a problem as the climate is going to change what pollen is present and when, making it much harder to work out what causes you a problem.

Daily Pollen Cycle

Plants start to release pollen in the early morning and continue releasing more into the early evening where pollen levels are at their peak, often early evening is when you are more likely to suffer.

The Weather

The weather effects how much pollen plants release, they release most on hot days with a lot of sunshine. These conditions also assist pollen in staying airborne especially in high humidity. Rain can help clear pollen from the air.

The Pollen Count

The Pollen Count is becoming more and more popular. During summer you will often hear about the Pollen Count in weather forecasts. These counts are predictions based on weather and samples taken of the air in certain areas. As more and more people suffer more time is given to pollen counts in the media. Airborne pollutants are measured as parts per volume of air, in this case the parts are grains of pollen and the volume of air most commonly used is a cubic metre.

The pollen forecast is usually given as:
low: fewer than 30 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
moderate: 30-49 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
high: 50-149 grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air
very high: 150 or more grains of pollen in every cubic metre of air

An average Hay Fever sufferer will start noticing symptoms about about 50 grans per cubic meter.

Click here to view the Pollen Count from The Met Office

Symptoms

Reactions tend to be a little different for everyone but generally they include

Itchy Eyes
Watery Eyes
Stinging or Irritated Eyes
Red Eyes
Swollen Eyes

Itchy Nose
Runny Nose
Blocked Nose

Itchy Throat
Itchy Ears
Unfamiliar Taste in the Mouth

Eye problems can be referred to as an allergic conjunctivitis as opposed to a viral form. If you suffer from Asthma is can trigger the symptoms associated with the condition. More severe reactions could cause more swelling of the throat leading to laboured breathing, Headaches, Blocked Sinuses, Sweating and psychological factors leading to Irritability.

Treatment

Drugs & Tablets

There are a variety of over the counter and prescription drugs available to treat Hay Fever. From experience I can say with some confidence people respond to different active ingredients. Due to the number of people suffering Hay Fever remedies are becoming more and more commercial and you are likely to know several brand names you have picked up from the media even if you do not suffer.

The active ingredient in tablets is the most important factor. I would try at least three different a time ingredients to determine what works best for you. Often you can purchase unbranded or supermarket brands of tablets far cheaper than you can brand names. Over the counter medicine can soon mount up to quite an amount so most should do a little shopping around. With prescription prices most tablets are available cheaper over the counter especially when prescriptions tend to be valid for 28 days worth of treatment.

(Click here to compare & purchase Tablets in our Hay Fever Products section)

Generally Antihistamines are referred to a either sedating or non-sedating.

Non-Sedating Antihistamines: (Brand Names in Brackets)

Very Common Active Ingredients:

Cetirizine Hydrochloride (Cetrizine)
Loratadine (Loratadine)
Acrivastine (Benadryl)

(Click here to compare & purchase Tablets in our Hay Fever Products section)

Common Active Ingredients:

Desloratadine (Neoclarityn)
Fexofenadine Hydrochloride (Fexofenadine) (Telfast)
Levocetirizine Hydrochloride (Xyzal)
Mizolastine (Mizollen)

Sedating Antihistamines: (Brand Names in Brackets)

Alimemazine Tartrate or Trimeprazine Tartrate (Vallergan)
Chlorphenamine Maleate (Chlorphenamine) (Piriton)
Clemastine (Tavegil)
Cyproheptadine Hydrochloride (Periactin)
Hydroxyzine Hydrochloride (Atarax) (Ucerax)
Ketotifen (Zaditen)
Promethazine Hydrochloride (Phenergan)

Allergen Immunotherapy

Normally immunotherapy will be considered as a course of treatment when allergy drugs have failed to work or where risk if severe reaction is present. Due to the risks with this course of therapy care needs to be taken to correctly assess and diagnose. Normally patients are injected with vaccines containing the allergen so obviously this poses a risk and patients must be correctly monitored.

Other medications

I would recommend combining tablets with a Nasal Spray & Eye Drops for greatest relief, however I am recommending this from what “I” have found the most successful. With any medications there are side effects, taking three different drugs increases your chances of suffering side effects and you should discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist first. I am not reccomending this as the most effective form of treatment.

Nasal Sprays

There are various brands of Nasal Spray available but I find they deal with the nasal and throat symptoms better than simply tablets alone. Unlike tablets they have a short expiry when opened so keep an eye on the label and consider writing the date of opening, using a permanent marker, on the bottle to help you remember when you opened it.

(Click here to compare & purchase Nasal Sprays in our Hay Fever Products section)

Eye Drops

Again various Eye Drops are available, I mainly use them to help relieve the symptom of itchy eyes. Some people find putting the drops in a little difficult and it goes against the natural reflexes of not wanting to put anything in your eyes so it is a little strange. I sometimes find they sting a little when my eyes are at their worst but normally this is insignificant compared to the symptoms. Again the expiry dates are short after you first open the drops so keep a good eye on this if you use Eye Drops.

(Click here to compare & purchase Eye Drops in our Hay Fever Products section)

Drug Free Treatment

Local Honey

Local Honey can be very useful and is best taken year round. The logic behind this is that Bee’s are busy collecting the pollen while your suffering and this pollen is used to make Honey. Local honey is made by Bee’s collecting the pollen “locally” and therefore there is a greater chance that the Bee’s are collecting the same type of Pollen as you are! As with Immunotherapy this is believed to work as you are exposing your body to the Pollen you are allergic to in smaller volumes and contained within a syrup, this way makes it unlikely to end up in your nose and eyes causing you Hay Fever problems. Exposing yourself to this all year round teaches your body tolerance of the allergen and reduces your “seasonal” allergic response.

Red Light Treatment

Reasonably new to the scene is “Red Light Therapy.” This normally comes in the form of a small battery powered unit with a wire and two probes on the end. You insert these two probes painlessly into your nostrils, switch the unit on and the probes light up emitting red light. This is believed to have a more natural antihistamine effect, working directly on the membranes withing the nose so they produce less histamine. A 2008 clinical trial showed 72% of patients had a reduction in symptoms although in practice most people would use it in combination with other treatments so its more difficult to work out if it has had a beneficial result. I do own a red light unit and although I last used it a few years ago I did find it to be quite effective. They have been around for a few years now and prices are fairly reasonable. Obviously you tend to use the unit in private as it does make your nose bright red!

(Click here to compare & purchase Red Light Therapy Devices in our Hay Fever Products section)

HEPA Air Filters

HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting) filers work by trapping pollen particles in the air, reducing those grains per cubic metre and lowering the Pollen count in a particular room. The British Allergy Foundation recommends certain products so it is best to look out for those.

Other Methods

Placing Vaseline just inside the entrance to your nose is supposed to help remove grains of Pollen from the air you breath before they get deep inside your nose.
Wear Sunglasses as they help prevent the wind blowing Pollen into your eyes.
Dry your clothes indoors or use a tumble dryer to prevent the wind coating your Laundry with Pollen outside.
Drive with the Air Conditioning on in the car as this filters the air the most and most modern cars have Pollen filters.

What I do

I try to eat as much Local Honey as I can during the year however in recent years my effort has been poor due to general health problems being more of a priority. I have a fairly short season starting towards the end of June and during this time I use a triple attack method of Tablets, Nasal Spray & Eye Drops. To top that off I use a red light unit and put all the “Other Methods” in place as well. Over the last few years my Hay Fever has been very mild and very short lived (Less than 30 days) now I do not know if this is due to age, resistance or a combination of those methods over the last few years but I would encourage you to give as many of these a go as you can as I know how lousy you can feel over the best few months of the year.

Other information

I am working on some more weird and wonderful Hay Fever treatments that I hope to bring you soon. So if your running out of options check back here or get in touch. Meanwhile enjoy this infographic from the Met Office:

Pollen in the UKSource: metoffice.gov.uk