Each year we welcome spring with relief as the warmer weather returns, bringing fresh flowers and new beginnings with it. For many, however, the upsurge in pollen also means the return of that pesky annual scourge, hayfever.
Why do I suffer from hayfever?
Allergies are linked to genetics – although you may not inherit the exact same aversions as your family, you’re more likely to develop allergies if your parents and other close relatives have them. Being born in spring also increases your risk of developing seasonal allergies like hayfever, so September babies tend to suffer from spring-induced stuffy
noses and watery eyes.
Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis, is triggered by a higher pollen count and increases the production of mucus, resulting in some nasty symptoms, including:
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat and cough
- Pressure over the sinuses
- Middle-ear infections
- Tiredness and lack of sleep
- Loss of smell
- Bad breath
How should I treat hayfever?
Seasonal allergies can take all the joy out of a lovely spring picnic or a family braai, and leave you feeling ill and low on energy. Try these treatments and you’ll be stopping to smell the flowers in no time:
Antihistamines effectively treat and prevent many of the irritating symptoms of hayfever, such as watery, itching eyes and sneezing. They can be taken as nasal sprays, eyedrops or tablets. Unfortunately, they aren’t particularly effective in relieving a blocked nose and they generally make one sleepy.
Corticosteroids (steroids) are a great option for those who don’t respond well to antihistamines and their anti-inflammatory effect can do wonders for easing a blocked nose, as they reduce the swelling of your nasal passage.
Decongestants ease breathing as they reduce swelling of the blood vessels in your nasal passage, although taking them for a long period can eventually cause rebound congestion and worsen your symptoms. In the long run, nasal
decongestants can also cause irritation and dryness, so only use them for short periods.
Drinking plenty of water helps to decrease mucus in the nasal passage, allowing it to be irrigated more easily.
Probiotics might be able to help treat hayfever symptoms, according to research. Look for those containing lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, which studies say are the most effective.
Certain foods have been found to reduce hayfever symptoms, including ginger (which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties), berries (which contain the natural antihistamine compound quercetin) and pineapple, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and contains bromelain, an enzyme which could help naturally decrease the production of mucus.
A warm facecloth applied to the face over the sinuses could help alleviate pain and thin out mucus. Steam from a warm bath or shower can also offer temporary relief.
Spraying a sterilised salt water solution such as Sterimar (available from pharmacies) deep into your nostrils can help relieve congestion and is completely safe, so you can do it as often as needed.
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The information on these pages is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always consult your GP or a medical specialist for specific information regarding your health.