Saturday 13 February 2021

What Really Helps With Hay Fever?

Please note that this post is a paid advertisement for allergy awareness.
Please also keep in mind that I never post anything that I don't personally support or believe in.

How hay fever comes about (and what to do about it)

This post addresses the following points:

  • Cold vs hay fever: What symptoms point towards hay fever?

  • How does hay fever come about (and what does our body want to tell us with the symptoms)?

  • How can hay fever be influenced by our diet?

  • What really helps against hay fever?

Cold vs Hay Fever: which symptoms suggest hay fever?

   Many hay fever symptoms are similar to those of a flu-like infection (e.g. sneezing, runny nose, cough, difficulties with breathing, scratchy throat, watery eyes, tiredness). This means that hay fever is initially often taken for a cold.

How does hay fever come about?

   You can think of hay fever as a mix-up and internal miscommunication. In other words, your body's immune system falsely classifies pollen as a threat that antibodies need to fight. Because of this mix-up, the body releases histamine, which then triggers the symptoms that can lead to major discomfort. The result is watery eyes, frequent sneezing, increased mucus formation, redness and itching.

What does our body want to tell us?

   The often annoying symptoms are in fact a sensible reaction of the body: The mucus formation flushes pathogens out of the body, and redness is a sign of better blood flow to the affected parts. This in turn means that immune cells can be transported more efficiently and faster. The itching draws more attention to the affected area so that possible inflammation cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, our body does not know that hay fever is not a real threat, but rather a mix-up.

How is hay fever diagnosed?

   If this is your first time suffering from hay fever symptoms, it is recommended to see a doctor. You will probably be asked a few questions first:

  • How long have the symptoms been going on for?

  • How do you experience the symptoms?

  • When and under what circumstances do the symptoms occur (will the symptoms get worse outdoors? Better after rain?)

  • Is there a family history with allergies?

   If the doctor suspects an allergy, a “prick test” usually follows. Allergen-containing solutions are dripped onto one of your arms, which can then get into your body by lightly pricking the skin. In case of hypersensitivity, an allergic reaction (reddening) occurs within approximately 20 minutes.

   An alternative to the prick test is an allergy blood test. Certain substances in your body, so-called immunoglobulins, are activated by an allergic reaction. These are proteins that are actually responsible for fighting parasites inside the body. Doctors recognize these immunoglobulins E by an increased IgE value. You can also find home allergy testing kits from reliable suppliers, especially helpful during the pandemic when you should be limiting outside contact.

When is hay fever season?

   Generally from February (hazel) to September (various grasses, ribwort, mugwort), depending on which pollen triggers your allergy. Apps such as the pollen forecast app offer a good overview of the current pollen count at the respective location. You can download it for free from the app store. If you want, you can even receive warnings as soon as the pollen you have defined appears at your location.

What really helps against hay fever?

There are basically 4 different ways to combat hay fever:

  1. Avoid contact with the pollen

  2. Treat symptoms (with medication or home remedies)

  3. Desensitization (hay fever vaccination)

  4. Diet change

Here you find a brief introduction to the individual options:

Option 1: Avoid contact with the pollen

   While it is not always possible to completely avoid contact with the allergenic pollen, there are a number of things that can help minimize contact.

   For example, you should make sure that you ventilate sensibly. Between 6 and 8 a.m. the pollen count is lowest in the city, in the countryside between 8 p.m. and midnight. The rest of the time you should keep the windows closed as much as possible. Alternatively, you can use protective grilles for the windows. These ensure that pollen does not even get into your apartment. The disadvantage: The fleece material doesn't let pollen through, but that also means less light and above all hardly any air!

   Once the pollen is in the apartment, regular cleaning helps against pollen flying around. Besides that, air purifiers help to greatly improve the indoor climate for allergy sufferers, especially at night.

Further tips to help avoid contact with pollen:

  • Pollen filter for the car

  • Special filters for the vacuum cleaner

  • Change clothes after entering the house and do not hang up outside to dry

  • Shower in the evening to remove pollen from the body or hair

  • Blow your nose using a nasal douche

Option 2: treat symptoms

    There are now countless medications and they all vary in effects. Below are brief introductions to the most common groups. For detailed information or questions, you should contact your doctor or pharmacist.

Medicines that are taken as preventatives:

    There are nasal sprays and eye drops with the active ingredient cromoglizic acid, which are taken preventatively and prevent the release of histamine and other inflammatory substances. However, these take 1-2 weeks to work and should therefore ideally be taken before the first symptoms appear. They are therefore not suitable for hay fever newbies.

Medicines that relieve specific symptoms such as watery eyes locally:

    Nasal or eye drops with the active ingredient azelastine help to alleviate the symptoms after about 15-30 minutes.

Medicines for general allergy symptoms:

    Cetirizine and loratadine help as antihistamines against allergy symptoms by weakening the effect of the body's own histamine, which, as explained above, triggers the symptoms. Loratadin is recommended for working people and children in school because, unlike cetericine, it does not have a tiring effect.

If nothing else works:

    The active ingredient mizolastine requires a prescription but can be an alternative if nothing else helps against hay fever, because according to various testimonials it is particularly effective. However, you should discuss details with your doctor.

    In the case of severe discomfort, nasal sprays containing cortisone or, if necessary, (depot) cortisone injections can also be helpful. These lead to an immediate swelling of the mucous membranes and are also anti-inflammatory. However, it is recommended to not use the cortisone-containing nasal sprays for longer than 4 weeks at a time.

Also a salt inhaler can bring relief. The salt particles have 2 positive effects:

  1. They remove fluid from the tissue in the airways and make the mucus softer, which in turn soothes the mucous membranes.

  2. They prevent the growth of microorganisms and kill germs, which supports the immune system.

Option 3: Desensitization or “hay fever vaccination”

   During desensitization, the body is gradually accustomed to the allergenic substance by injecting the allergen under the skin in a very diluted form and slowly increasing doses over a longer period of time. As an alternative to "subcutaneous immunotherapy" (under the skin) there is "sublingual immunotherapy" (under the tongue: tablet / drops).

Option 4: change in diet

   The right diet can significantly reduce hay fever symptoms. The reason is obvious: hay fever produces histamine in the body, which leads to swelling of the mucous membranes. If you take in additional histamine through food, the symptoms get more severe! On the other hand, if you avoid it, the histamine level is lower overall and the symptoms are weaker. Incidentally, foods that contain the active ingredient quercetin are particularly helpful. This is because it works like a natural antihistamine and helps to lower the histamine level in the blood.

Avoid foods that contain histamine:
vinegar, yeast, sausage, canned fish, mature cheese (e.g. ripe Gouda), sauerkraut, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, avocado, legumes, mushrooms, strawberries, citrus fruits, bananas, kiwi, pears, papaya, nuts, chocolate, cocoa, soy products, juices and soda.

Eat foods that lower histamine levels:
capers, onions (especially the outer rings), blueberries, apples, broccoli. Of course, you have to pay attention to possible cross allergies. People who are allergic to tree pollen are sometimes allergic to apples, for example, because the allergens are similar.

How can you prevent hay fever?

   Hay fever cannot be prevented for good. However, experience shows that early and slow habituation to various potential irritants can have a preventive effect. The environment around children should therefore never be too sterile. Holidays on the farm can also help to strengthen the immune system of children. In addition, there is no harm in maintaining a healthy intestinal flora. Antibiotics, for example, quickly throw this out of balance, because both good and bad bacteria are destroyed. 



Below is a short summary of the 7 most important points about hay fever:

  1. Avoid allergens (a pollen count app helps)

  2. Open windows at the right time (city: morning, country: evening)

  3. Shower in the evening, wash your hair and hands regularly during the day

  4. A nasal rinse and air purifier for the bedroom ensure restful sleep

  5. Eat little food containing histamine, but a lot of histamine-lowering food

  6. Choose medication carefully and educate yourself on alternative options

  7. If the stress becomes too much: Talk to your doctor about desensitization