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Hay Fever - Causes Symptoms and Treatments Health Tips

What Causes Hay Fever?

Hay Fever is an allergic reaction to pollen. When tiny particles of pollen come into contact with the cells in your eyes, nose, mouth and throat they become an irritant.

Your body sees these particles as a threat and your immune system starts to react as if it were being attacked by a virus. This overreaction causes an allergic reaction which leads to watery, itchy eyes and a runny nose.

Nobody knows why our immune system does this, but there are also other risk factors that can increase your risk of suffering from hay fever.

They include:-

  • Having a family history of hay fever
  • Having Asthma or other allergic conditions, such as Eczema (an allergic skin condition)
  • Being exposed to tobacco smoke during early childhood

Hay Fever Symptoms

Hay Fever symptoms can vary from person to person and may be worse some years more than others. This is because weather conditions and pollen counts vary depending on the time of year but also because different people are allergic to different types of pollen.

Hay fever symptoms include:-

  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Frequent sneezing
  • Red, itchy, watery eyes ( also known as allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Itchy nose, ears, mouth and throat

Less common symptoms include:-

  • Facial pain ( due to blocked sinuses)
  • Loss of your sense of smell
  • Headaches
  • Sweats

Some hay fever symptoms can be very mild but they can still affect your sleep and your daily activities at work and school.

Hay fever sufferers will be pleased to hear that many people do find that their symptoms improve as they get older. 50% of people say that they see some improvement in their symptoms after a few years and 10% - 20% of people say their symptoms disappeared completely.

When Does Hay Fever Occur Most?

This depends on the type of pollen you are allergic to. Below is a list of the types of pollen and when you can expect to have an allergic reaction.

  • Tree pollen, this is released during the spring months
  • Grass pollen, this is released during the end of spring and the beginning of summer
  • Weed pollen, this is released anytime from early spring right through to late autumn

Ways to Treat Hay Fever

Conventional Medication

It isn't always necessary to visit your doctor when you see the first signs of hay fever. Pop along to your local pharmacist and get some antihistamines, these can be bought over the counter and come in tablet or capsule form, lotions, gels and creams or as a nasal spray.
Antihistamines can be used in two ways:- As an "as required" treatment, this is where you take them when you see the first signs of hay fever symptoms. Or as a "preventative treatment" :- this is where you take them in the morning before you leave the house, when you know there is going to be a high pollen count.

Antihistamine medicines are classified into two groups. These groups are:-

  • First-generation antihistamines. These contain Diphenhydramine and Chlorpheniramine which cause symptoms of drowsiness in most people.
  • Second-generation antihistamines. These contain Loratadine and Cetirizine and do not usually cause drowsiness.

If these over-the-counter medicines fail to improve your symptoms you should make an appointment to see your GP. He/she will be able to prescribe you with prescription medication such as Steroids (corticosteroids).

Alternative Medication

Many people automatically turn to antihistamines and nasal steroids to treat hay fever but a recent survey has found that more than 70% of people actually prefer to use a natural alternative such as homeopathy or acupuncture.

So What Alternative Treatments are Available to us?

Homeopathic remedies come in many forms. One of the commonly used is a nasal spray, these contain several anti-allergy herbs including galphimia glauca and are easily available. There is some evidence that this ingredient can help ease sneezing and itching of the eyes, nose and throat.

The Use of Herbs

Herbs are greatly used in homeopathy and some are often hugely effective at providing allergy relief for many a hay fever sufferer. Below are a list of herbs and how to use them:-

  • Butterbur reduces inflammation, blocking histamines. Studies suggest that this herb is effective for relieving sneezing, itchy eyes, sinus congestion and headaches. ( Please note that people allergic to chrysanthemum or ragweed should avoid butterbur. )
  • Chamomile tea is reputed to relieve hay fever symptoms. Smearing chamomile and lemon oil on a tissue and inhaling it helps prevent hay fever symptoms.
  • Ginger tea with raw honey added to it helps to break up chest congestion and loosen phlegm. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and act as a natural antihistamine.
  • Green tea is one of the best homemade remedies used to boost the immune system and it also blocks the production of histamine.
  • Calendula liquid diluted in water makes a fantastic eye wash to help soothe itchy eyes. Always use non-alcoholic calendula. Add a dropper full of colloidal silver to help enhance the antimicrobial action and reduce inflammation.
  • Peppermint tea relieves nasal and sinus congestion. Drinking it cold will help sooth the coughing which is associated with hay fever and allergies.

If you are unsure about how to use natural alternatives, visit a registered homeopath or a pharmacist that has an interest in homeopathy. They will be only too happy to help you find the right treatment that will give you relief from the horrible symptoms of hay fever.

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Image courtesy of wikimedia.