Recognising hay fever symptoms is not always easy, especially for those who experience a sudden arrival of symptoms, having never had them before.
We all like to enjoy the sun when it’s out. After a cold winter, spring comes along bringing with it, tree blossom and young plants, then before you know it summers here with beautiful gardens and wild meadows, It’s a time for long leisurely walks, picnics and memories. But if you suffer from hay fever, spring and summer can be tough. In fact the symptoms are very similar to a summer cold but there is a difference!
What is hay fever?
Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen – a fine powder produced by plants at certain times of the year. When pollen comes into contact with the mouth, nose, eyes and throat of someone with the allergy, hay fever symptoms develop.
The stages of a pollen allergy:
1. Pollen enters your nose. Cells in the nasal passage are sensitised.
2. Sensitised cells trigger the production of antibodies to counteract the invading allergen, leading to the release of histamine. The production of histamine triggers the onset of hay fever symptoms.
3. Your immune system’s response is to protect, so white blood cells flood into the affected area, causing irritation and inflammation that lead to congestion.
4. The longer your exposure to pollen, the more inflammation happens, and the more histamine is released. This causes your runny nose, itchy eyes and other symptoms to continue and get worse.
Hay Fever Season
The main hay fever season starts in March and April with tree pollen, It continues with grass from May to July, and weed pollen comes later in June to August. The worst time of year for your hay fever symptoms depends on when the pollen count is highest for the plant that triggers your allergy. It also varies according to how sensitised you are.
Hay fever affects both children and adults, with one in four adults, and one in ten children are estimated to experience symptoms of hay fever. In most cases, it’s an allergy that first develops in childhood or during adolescence. Many children grow out of the condition or at least see a reduction in the severity of symptoms as they get older. However, there’s also a baffling tendency for some people to develop this allergy for the first time in adulthood.
The most common complaints are:
Blocked or runny nose
Red, itchy or watery eyes
Loss of smell
The Difference Between Hayfever and a Summer Cold
The cause of coughing and sneezing you experience due to a cold is a viral infection, not an allergic reaction.
A cold usually goes away in one to two weeks. Hay fever can last for weeks or months.
If you’re feeling itchiness in eyes and throat, it’s more likely to be hay fever than a cold.
When you blow your nose, yellow or green discharge is characteristic of a cold. With hay fever, it’s usually clear.
Symptoms of hay fever appear quickly in response to a rise in the pollen count. With a cold, it feels more gradual.
Nature can lend a helping hand; the humble stinging nettle has been used for years by herbalists to help with the symptoms of hay fever. This seems to be due to its anti-inflammatory effects which can help with allergy symptoms, and stinging nettles are also full of healthy nutrients. Soaking or boiling the stems and leaves, renders the plant’s sting-producing chemicals inert.
You can make a nettle tea or use the plant’s leaves as a cooking ingredient. Try blanching nettle leaves, then use as you would spinach, chard, or parsley. Use young leaves before the plant flowers, that haven’t been sprayed or grown near a road and wash thoroughly. Of course, wash thoroughly before using and don’t forget your gloves.