If you are one of the lucky ones to not suffer with hay fever, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. Unlike the common cold or a sickness bug, hay fever is actually an allergy that promotes an inflammatory response. It’s this inflammatory response that is what causes some 10 million people in England discomfort during the summer months.

Where it does bear resemblance to the common cold, however, is the number of different relief methods there are and how they work differently for different people. That being said, few people are aware of how great a role nutrition can play in hay fever symptoms. This guide aims to explain why we might suffer from hay fever as well as some natural options for hay fever relief.

What is hay fever?

Hay fever is an overreaction by the body in response to the allergen pollen. Those who are exposed to a wide range of pollen allergens from a young age may develop an immune system that recognises and appropriately reacts to the foreign body (pollen) but, for those who spend a lot of time indoors or are not exposed to such a varied range of pollen, hay fever symptoms may appear.

While hay fever is more common to first occur in childhood, some people develop pollen allergies later in life. It’s not completely clear why this happens but there is allergy research to suggest that it could be the result of having a compromised immune system, as the result of a cold for example, which is then exposed to an allergen trigger. Likewise, hay fever symptoms can also lessen over time, this is because immune function reduces as we get older, so the immune response becomes less severe.

tree pollen

Hay fever causes

Hay fever, simply, is caused by an allergy to pollen. People suffer with hay fever symptoms at different times of the year depending on what type of pollen they’re allergic to and when that type of pollen is particularly high.

Types of pollen:

  • Tree pollen, for example, tends to be most prevalent in March and April.
  • Grass pollen is highest between May and July.
  • Weed pollen affects people June through to August.

Hay fever symptoms can also be brought on by a reaction to indoor allergens such as dust mites, or tiny flecks of skin and saliva shed by cats, dogs, and other animals with fur or feathers (pet dander). So it is not always seasonal and therefore it is important to take note of when symptoms occur in order to work out the root cause of the reaction.

Hay fever is linked to the immune system. It occurs when the immune system incorrectly identifies pollen as a harmful virus, it then produces antibodies, which then signal to the immune system to release chemicals, such as histamine, into the bloodstream the next time you encounter pollen. It’s these chemicals that cause a reaction and then trigger hay fever symptoms.


Signs of hay fever

Signs of hay fever are similar to that of a common cold but, where a cold tends to only last a few days, hay fever symptoms can be with you for weeks and even months during the pollen season.

Hay fever symptoms include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny or blocked nose
  • Itchy and watering eyes
  • Itchy nose, mouth, throat and ears
  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of smell

Congestion and irritation are the two main forms of hay fever symptoms and their severity varies from person to person. Symptoms can be more severe for those who have asthma, who may also experience shortness of breath, wheezing, and a tight feeling in the chest.

Natural hay fever relief

Antihistamine medication is one way of relieving hay fever symptoms. Antihistamines come in a few different forms and some of those can cause drowsiness, so it can take a little while to establish which form works best for your specific symptoms.

Alternatively, there are a few techniques for natural hay fever relief.

  • Applying Vaseline around the nostrils to prevent pollen from entering your airways
  • Wear close-fitting sunglasses to prevent pollen from reaching your eyes
  • Frequently shower and wash your close to reduce the amount of pollen around you
  • Stay indoors
  • Clean your house regularly to remove traces of pollen
  • Keep windows and doors shut

While these methods may be effective for reducing hay fever symptoms, they are not always practical.

There are also dietary considerations for relieving hay fever symptoms. For example, consuming food and drink that contain histamine can worsen your symptoms. These foods include dairy and alcohol. If you know that you suffer from hay fever symptoms, then adding nutrients that offer allergy and immune system support ahead of pollen season could have a positive impact on managing the effects of hay fever.

grass pollen

Hay fever supplements

Certain nutrients can support the body’s inflammatory response to pollen. In addition to avoiding foods that are high in histamine, there are a number of different foods that act as a natural antihistamine.

Anti-inflammatory supplements and nutrients can ensure the body has the best inflammatory response to pollen, therefore lessening the severity of hay fever’s symptoms. The following nutrients and hay fever support supplements have anti-inflammatory properties amongst other potential hay fever benefits:

  • Quercetin

Quercetin, which is most commonly found in red onions and kale, is a powerful antioxidant, which research suggests also has antihistamine effects.

  • Hesperidin

Hesperidin is a bioflavonoid found in citrus fruits. Alongside anti-inflammatory properties, it is thought to suppress the release of histamine in the body.

  • Bromelain

Bromelain is an enzyme extract that is found most prevalent in pineapples. Research suggests it works as an anti-congestant, thought to relieve nasal congestion.

  • Fish oils

Fish oils such as omega 3 and krill oil support the immune system and the inflammatory response. They are also recommended as a mode of protection of the cell walls from damage caused by inflammatory chemicals.

A person’s response to pollen and allergens can change over time, for the better or worse, so keeping an eye on the severity of symptoms and the techniques that ease your specific symptoms are the best ways of managing hay fever.

Should your symptoms be severe, worsen significantly, or impact another condition such as asthma, it is highly advisable that you seek the advice of a healthcare practitioner. Should you need any further information on hay fever, common allergens or food supplements, feel free to get in touch at sales@metabolics.co.uk.