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Posted Apr 14 2010 7:10am

It is estimated that fifteen million people in the UK suffer from hay fever. Find out what this year’s season has in store & what might help.

Following in the footsteps of spring, the hay fever season has begun a little late this year & it is predicted that it may be briefer than usual. This is in contrast to the long term trend of ever earlier seasons which last for longer. This is likely to be due to the harsh winter we had followed by a cold wet spring, which means that most plant are flowering a little later this year. The earliest pollens come from trees, birch pollen causing the most severe allergic symptoms after grass. The birch pollen season, however, usually starts at the end of March but is running a couple of weeks or so late this year. The grasses - which normally start in May – could follow suit, though if May turned out to be wet & warm, the grasses could well catch up.

If you know which particular pollens you’re allergic to then you can try & limit your exposure, as well as starting any possible treatment at the appropriate time. Tree pollens are usually around in April, grass pollens May, June & July, weed pollen in August, & mould pollens from late August to the end of November. You can keep a diary to see when symptoms occur to try & identify your pollen allergy, or alternatively you could have a test for this at your GP practice or a specialist centre.

When the pollen count is high you can try & stay indoors with the windows shut, particularly in the mornings, at night & on windy days as levels are higher then. If you have to go out then avoid open planted spaces, & if travelling by car try & keep the windows closed. Pollen can cling to your hair & clothes, so if you have been out a shower & change of clothes when you come in may help. You should avoid mowing the lawn & hanging your washing outside to dry. It’s possible to check the daily pollen count for your area by clicking on the following link

If you are going to use conventional medications when it comes to treating symptoms, it is always best to consult your GP or pharmacist. These include antihistamine tablets, nasal sprays & eye drops. Usage sometimes needs to begin two weeks prior to expected symptoms. The newer tablets are less likely to cause drowsiness than older types.

For those who would prefer to avoid the possible side effects of traditional treatments, there are a variety of more natural alternatives, though as yet not all have been rigorously tested to evidence positive results. One treatment showing moderate success is a balm which is applied to the nostrils as a pollen barrier. Available with essential oils of lavender or aloe vera, or unscented, & certified as organic by the soil association, a jar of this product - Haymax should last the whole summer. Some people swear by green tea, & again limited studies have shown the catechin it contains to be effective as an antihistamine. Ideally the tea should be organic to avoid the possibility of chemicals destroying the catechin. Acupuncture, acupressure & Indian head massage have also been cited as remedies to prevent or minimize symptoms.

And finally, research in Denmark has shown that the fibres in paper tissues, & the chemicals used to bleach them, can irritate mucous membranes, so by using them to blow your nose you could actually be exacerbating your misery!

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