With hay fever season in full swing, we’re shedding light on the most common myths surrounding seasonal allergies, with advice from Consultant Pediatrician and Allergy Specialist, Dr Ian Pollock, from BMI Kings Oak Hospital.
Sneezing and sniffling your way through the day? If you’re a hay fever sufferer you’ll be all too familiar with the common symptoms.
From itchy, watery eyes to non-stop sneezing, hay fever can make the summer months a misery.
Here are 5 hay fever myths you should know about:
MYTH 1: Drinking alcohol will ease symptoms
Drinking alcohol can actually make your hay fever symptoms worse. Alcohol, such as beer, wine and spirits, contains a chemical called histamine which is the substance that’s released when you have an allergic reaction.
If you’re struggling with symptoms, it’s probably a good idea to avoid red wine in particular as it has high levels of histamine. However, if you really fancy a tipple, gin or vodka are lower in histamine, but make sure to drink responsibly.
Alcohol can also trigger symptoms of people with asthma. In fact, 75% of asthma sufferers say alcohol brings on their symptoms.1
- Find out tips for preventing hay fever
- Wash your hair, face and clothes before sleeping – you don’t want pollen to stick to your pillow!
- Sleep with the window closed to avoid pollen from entering your bedroom
- If possible, stay indoors when the pollen count is high
- Put a small amount of petroleum jelly in the openings of your nostrils. This will help to catch pollen.
- Stop smoking – for obvious health-related reasons and because it makes your allergy symptoms worse
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to help shield your eyes from pollen
- Avoid drinking alcohol which can worse your symptoms
MYTH 2: Hay fever is no big deal
It’s easy to write off hay fever symptoms as ‘just a runny nose’ or a ‘bit of a scratchy throat’, but this is simply not true. Not only can hay fever cause sufferers to take time off from work and school, but it also accounts for 16.7 million visits to the doctor every year2.
Hay fever can also be responsible for sleepless nights. In fact, up to 57% of adults and 88% of children with hay fever experience problems with their sleep. This leads sufferers to feel tired during the day, as well as being less able to function3.
Did you know that hay fever affects between 10-30% of adults?3
MYTH 3: Anti-histamines will always make you drowsy
This is most definitely the case with older types of anti-histamines. Nowadays, there are newer anti-histamines which are less likely to make you feel drowsy4. These first generation anti-histamines include cetirizine, loratadine and fexofenadine.
However, some people find that even non-drowsy tablets can still make them feel tired. It’s always best to read the instructions of your specific anti-histamines to see how they might affect you.
MYTH 4: Rain is good for allergies
Although light rain can help to wash away pollen, it can worsen symptoms for those with grass or weed allergies.
When these types of pollen levels are at a high, a heavy rain shower or thunderstorm can cause the pollen to burst open and break into smaller particles which then scatter through the surrounding air. Not only can this cause an increase in hay fever symptoms, but it can also be problematic for asthma sufferers too.5
Grass pollen season runs from the middle of May to July, with weed pollen season starting at the end of June to September.
The Consultant's View
We asked Consultant Paediatrician & Allergy Specialist, Dr Ian Pollock from BMI King's Oak Hospital for his opinion on reducing hay fever symptoms.
- Q: What can you do to reduce symptoms of hay fever?
Firstly, it is important to note that there are lots of suggestions, of variable quality, on how to reduce your hay fever symptoms.
However, the only good quality medical evidence to reduce hay fever symptoms is if you have co-existing perennial allergic rhinitis. That is to say, you are also allergic to an allergen present all year round, such as house dust mite. A combination of measures to reduce house dust mite exposure in the home, including mattress, pillow and duvet allergen-resistant fabric covers, can reduce symptoms due to house dust mite allergic rhinitis. This can thereby reduce your symptoms of hay fever.
All other measures to reduce symptoms, such as, showering after high pollen exposure, avoiding outdoor activities and wearing wraparound sunglasses, may be helpful but are not supported by good quality medical advice. However, all these methods are worth considering as they are relatively cheap, easy, and have no significant side effects.
MYTH 5: Pollen levels are lower at night
Pollen levels are actually higher at night then during the day. Throughout the day pollen rises in the air and then descends over night as the temperature drops.6 This increases the concentration of pollen at ground level and is why your hay fever symptoms might feel worse first thing in the morning.
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