Ask the pharmacist
Also known as seasonal allergic rhinitis, hay fever is an allergic reaction to airborne substances such as pollen. It is the most common form of allergy, affecting up to 15 percent of the Irish population.
Persecuted by pollen
In Ireland, grass pollen is the biggest trigger, which is why people tend to suffer mainly during the spring and summer months, when grasses and flowers come into bloom. Pollen causes cells to release histamine and other chemicals, resulting in a runny, itchy nose, blocked sinuses, sneezing, redness and watering of the eyes.
Fortunately there’s plenty you can do to help keep the itching and sneezing at bay. Start by being aware of high pollen counts and avoid going out during these times. Check prevailing winds and remember that wind-dried clothes can become pollen catchers. Hanging clothes inside will keep them pollen free. Pets too, can bring pollen in on their fur.
If you do have to venture out, dabbing a natural balm, such as Oregon Grape Balm from Viridian Nutrition just inside the nostrils can trap pollen, preventing you from breathing it in, and for your car an integral pollen filter may be an option.
Driven mad by dairy
Many people with hay fever are also likely to have a sensitivity to certain foods, the most common being wheat and dairy. Dairy foods are mucous-forming which can make hay fever symptoms worse. Try to keep dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt) to a minimum or seek out dairy-free alternatives such as rice or oat milk.
Herbal remedies can also help. For ‘hay fever eyes’; streaming, puffy eyes are one of the most common symptoms, there is the aptly named Euphrasia, or Eyebright. Native to Britain and Europe, it has been used as far back as the 17th century in connection with eye health and has proven particularly beneficial in reducing the inflammation and ‘puffiness’ caused by hay fever.
Bilberry can also help. It is rich in antioxidant flavonoids, which help to prevent the release of inflammatory chemicals such as leukotrienes, histamine and prostaglandins.
Quercetin, found naturally in onions, apples and black tea, is noted for its anti-histamine activity and vitamin B5, the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin, helps to support the adrenal glands and regulate the production of cortisone, the body’s natural anti-inflammatory hormone. Many people choose to take Quercetin with Vitamin B5 daily and get great results. We’ve even heard of a florist who has found great relief with this combination!
James Geraghty is the managing director of the Molloy’s Lifestyle Pharmacy Group. He has a degree in biochemistry and pharmacy, as well as 15 years’ experience of the health industry. A huge believer in the importance of exercise and wellbeing, he regularly lectures to active retirement and special interest groups around the county.