The season of winter ills and chills is nearly over and we find ourselves moving into Spring and Summer. I must say I love Spring, it’s my favourite time of the year – but for some, it marks the return of hay fever season- allergies, intolerances, sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose. You can tell pollen season has arrived by the fine coating of pollen covering your car after it has been parked outside for a while. You might get headaches and have to clear you throat a lot.
An allergy or sensitivity occurs when your immune system reacts to substances in your environment or the food you ingest. These substances are called allergens. Your body creates an allergy causing antibody to a substance, because your immune system mistakenly identifies a food or allergen as something that could harm you. When you have exposure, your body will mount an attack. There are so many things one can be sensitive or allergic to whether it be environmental or chemical or food.
An Aero Allergen is an allergen that is suspended in the air and breathed into the respiratory tract, where it sets up an allergic reaction e.g. pollens and grasses.
Allergy symptoms include sinusitis, sneezing, runny itchy or stuffy nose, watering or itchy eyes, stomach pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, itchy and swollen mouth or throat, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, eczema or hives.
According to the NZ Allergy Society (allergy.org) around 20 percent of our population suffers from hay fever. I know, I do! Interestingly, it has been found that around one third of that number develop hay fever before the age of 10. Makes you wonder what our immune systems are doing. The thing is, hay fever can make things a lot worse for asthma sufferers or those who have respiratory problems
In New Zealand, the Pollen Season is classified as being between September and March roughly.
Supporting the immune system and stopping that inflammatory cascade and histamine release is important to get some relief from the symptoms. Most commonly antihistamines are used but herbs can also play a helpful part in decreasing hay fever symptoms.
Herbs such as Echinacea, albizzia, eyebright and golden seal are herbs that have been traditionally used to relieve hay fever symptoms and nasal congestion and can be a helpful immune system boost as well. Supporting the immune system with vitamin C in divided doses throughout the day, and adding zinc is supportive therapy.
One idea I particularly like for hay fever sufferers is to use a dehumidifier with a hepa filter to cleanse your room of pollens during the day – when you are not there. If you keep the door shut during the day, and the machine on, you will be breathing in cleaner air while you sleep.
Saline nasal washes can also be helpful to gently clear pollens from the nose each night before bedtime.
Go well this pollen season!