While most of us live for this time of year — the sun, the blooms, the lazy days in the park — those with hay fever can’t help but find it a struggle. A simple stroll through the park means 30 minutes of sneezing, cruising with the windows down will have eyes streaming and a five-minute lie down on the grass results in two days of itching. It’s not fair and it’s damn frustrating, sometimes so bad that you have to cancel social plans or stop doing outdoor sports throughout the summer months.
Though hay fever isn’t curable, there are plenty of ways to deal with it that aren’t all pill-popping and nasal sprays. From teas to balms and changing your sunglasses, ahead are the best hay fever hacks we’ve heard of for a more manageable, fun-loving summer.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Refined sugar triggers a dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar levels, which causes an adrenaline surge that activates histamine release, advises Pollen UK director, Jean Emberlin. When you need a sweet fix, go for fresh fruit or dried fruit instead.
Emberlin advises wearing wraparound sunglasses to keep pollen from getting in the eyes. If you do get itchy eyes, wash them frequently and use eye drops — she personally recommends Opticrom Hayfever Eye Drops.
Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
A.Vogel’s nutritional therapist Alison Cullen advises filling your diet with anti-inflammatory foods to counteract inflammation. These include blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, blackcurrants, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, mangoes, apricots, peaches, nectarines, papaya, pears, pineapples, prunes, plums, raisins, figs, avocados, herring, pilchards, sardines, salmon, pumpkin seed oil and flaxseed oil.
Keep Track of the Pollen Levels
Use the A.Vogel hay fever app to check when levels are high, so you can plan your diary accordingly. The clever app uses GPS to find your location and shows forecast levels for trees, grass and weed pollen.
Suck Fisherman’s Friend Lozenges
Though typically used in the winter months to ease colds, Fisherman’s Friend lozenges include menthol and eucalyptus, which are both natural decongestants and will go a long way towards tackling some of the most irritating symptoms of hay fever.
Eat Less Dairy
Be wary of mucus-inducing dairy products. Those with allergic reactions often struggle with dietary dairy, so it’s worth exploring the dairy-free offerings through the summer to see if this helps limit symptoms.
Dry Your Clothes Inside
Emberlin says, “Avoid drying washing outdoors on high pollen count days. The washing acts as an air filter collecting the pollen, which will then be brought indoors.”
Use an Invisible Defence Balm
HayMax is an organic, drug-free allergen barrier balm, which blocks airborne allergens from entering the nose, thus limiting the effects of hay fever with non-drowsy protection. Once you rub on the clear balm, it acts as an invisible defensive barrier, so you can keep it on all day. You don’t need a lot, so one little pot can last you all day. Another similar option is NasalGuard AllergieBLOCK, which does the same trick and is more readily available in major supermarkets and pharmacies.
Dry Skin Eye Gel
Antihistamine eye drops can have a very drying and irritating effect on the skin around the eye, which can add to the problem of itchiness. Skin Shop’s Dry Skin Eye Gel uses plant extract cardiospermum, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-itching benefits without damaging or irritating the skin around the eye. For more soothing results, leave it in the fridge and apply when cool.
Dry Eye Concealer
The itchy irritations of hay fever can cause dry, flaky skin around the eyes and eczema on the delicate skin, which doesn’t look or feel nice. Eyes can also get red and dark from excessive rubbing. Dry Eye Concealer is a multi-action product that covers redness and heals simultaneously. It contains the cardiospermum extract mentioned previously, which acts as an anti-inflammatory, along with biolin, a prebiotic that repairs the dry skin and comes in a natural skin tint that covers redness.
Drink Nettle Tea
Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at NutriCentre, advises limiting caffeine by instead opting for nettle tea, which reduces sneezing and improves the symptoms caused by allergic rhinitis.
Cook with Extra Ginger and Garlic
Cooking with extra amounts of potent natural flavours, such as ginger, garlic, onion and spices can ease congestion caused by hay fever.
Get More Vitamin C
Vitamin C has antihistamine properties, so it’s worth upping your intake if you’re a hay fever sufferer. Eat more citrus fruits, have an orange juice every morning or take vitamin C tablets to feel the benefit.