Itchy eyes, persistent sneezing and a blocked nose – there’s nothing fun about hay fever. Especially if you love spending time outdoors.
Can diet changes make a difference to hay fever symptoms? Do alternative inventions for hay fever actually work? What immune system-supporting supplements could help your body cope better with allergies?
We’ll explore how alternative support for hay fever could work alongside your usual antihistamine to relieve seasonal sniffles.
“Avoiding pollen and taking away the trigger of your allergy is the most obvious way to reduce hay fever symptoms. But if you enjoy the outdoors this may seem too big a compromise,” says Emily Rollason, Holland & Barrett nutritionist.
“Hay fever medicines, nasal sprays and eye drops can be effective in treating allergy symptoms. But there are sources of natural hay fever support that could also help you to navigate your symptoms.”
For example, what we eat can exacerbate the inflammation triggered by an allergy or increase the amount of histamine in our system.
There are also a wide range of herbal hay fever tablets and supplements that can offer allergy-supporting benefits.
“The jury's out on whether natural support for hay fever actually makes a difference. A lot of evidence is anecdotal rather than scientifically proven,” Emily adds.
“For example, a daily spoonful of local honey is something many hay fever sufferers swear by. But there’s no robust clinical evidence to support its use as an allergy treatment.”
Sporadic sneezing fits. Watery eyes. An annoying tickle in your throat. Sound familiar? Then you’re probably preparing to cope with the seasonal inconvenience of hay fever symptoms.
As well as herbal hay fever tablets, there are also some dietary changes and allergy-friendly habits you can adopt. These can help to manage and stabilise the uncomfortable side effects of an allergy to pollen.
Are you ready to give a few different interventions for hay fever a try? First, let’s understand a bit more about what’s behind your symptoms and what causes hay fever to flare up when the weather gets warmer.
Hay fever is a common allergy to pollen that affects around 13 million people in the UK. It’s sometimes called seasonal allergic rhinitis, and it’s caused by the immune system overreacting to pollen floating in the air.
Dr. Subashini, former Director of Science & Wellness at Holland & Barrett explains: "While it’s traditionally thought of as a summer problem, hay fever can start to affect people as early as February and the season continues until September. The time of year your symptoms flare up can give you an idea of which type of pollen you’re reacting to."
You’re probably looking for a way to manage hay fever. Maybe the best nasal spray? Or some super strong hay fever tablets that guarantee all symptoms disappear with a single dose?
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this particular allergy. And however hard you try, you can’t completely prevent it.
But there are lots of ways you can manage and navigate the symptoms with alternative support for hay fever.
You can tackle hay fever in three main ways. These include avoiding pollen, medication / interventions and nutrition.
As with any allergy, the most obvious way to manage hay fever is to avoid contact with the allergen, in this case pollen.
“The more contact you have with pollen, the more histamine is released by your body,” says Emily. “Therefore, limiting contact with pollen can help to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms."
"For example, if you know the pollen count is going to be high next week, start using your treatments or support for hay fever early. This builds up your resistance to the rise in pollen in the air."
Keeping an eye on the pollen forecast
When it’s high, avoid spending long periods on green and grassy areas that may aggravate your symptoms.2
Understanding your personal pollen trigger
This can help you to predict when your symptoms are most likely to hit.
Tree pollen is typically high in March and April. Grass pollen reaches its peak in May to July. Weed pollen comes later in June to August.3
Not letting settled pollen linger
Change and wash your clothes after a day outdoors to reduce the amount of pollen you bring back into your home.
A shower or bath before going to bed may also help to remove pollen.
Keeping windows shut during the day
Particularly in your bedroom. This limits your exposure to pollen when inside and minimises symptoms disrupting your sleep.
Wearing protective clothing
Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat create a physical barrier. This keeps airborne pollen away from sensitive eyes.
Dotting a barrier balm around the nose
Dotting a barrier balm around the nose can trap pollen before it gets into the nasal passage. There are some great options that are suitable for this purpose.
Is your little one dealing with hay fever symptoms? Thankfully there are a number of things you can try to navigate the impact hay fever has on their wellbeing:1
Smear HayMax Kids Pollen Barrier inside their nostrils to reduce how much pollen they inhale. You can also put some around the bones of their eyes. This organic, drug-free pollen barrier balm can be used from birth.
To soothe their eyes, you can gently wipe them with cotton wool soaked in cold water.
Keep your windows at home and in the car closed, especially at the worst times of day (early morning and 5pm – 7pm).
Limit the amount of time they spend outside playing and try to entertain them indoors on days when the pollen count is high or it’s windy.
When they come inside, get them to change their clothes and wipe their face, hands and hair with a damp cloth.
Clothes should be dried inside on airers as pollen can stick to clothes that are dried outside on washing lines.
Give them wraparound sunglasses to wear to prevent pollen from going into their eyes.
Instead of going to the countryside for days out, opt for a visit to the coast as pollen counts are lower.
If you have a dog or cat at home, try to brush them outside before they enter your home and wipe them down with a damp towel.
The first line of defence for many hay fever sufferers is a group of conventional medicines called antihistamines.
They work by blocking the action of histamine. If you take these medications before contact with pollen, they can stop the release of histamine.
If you take them afterwards, they can reduce the impact of histamine. This can lessen the severity of your symptoms.4 “There are also compounds found in certain foods that have potential antihistamine properties that may ease hay fever symptoms,” says Emily.
“So, if you’re unable or prefer not to take conventional hay fever medication for any reason, it’s worth looking into whether an alternative support for hay fever could work for you.”
Dr. Subashini comments:
"If you have had hay fever before and know when it usually starts, you can start taking antihistamine medication and using steroid nasal sprays about 2 weeks before.
By taking allergy medications before you first come into contact with allergens, the medication can prevent the release of histamine and other chemicals, which cause hay fever symptoms, so your symptoms may be much less severe as a result."
Help manage hay fever symptoms with everything from herbal hay fever tablets to nasal sprays - as well as a range of nutritional supplements. If you’re looking for an alternative to antihistamines, you could try some of these other options…
There are a range of different nasal sprays out there, but this one by Puressentiel has been specifically made to help with allergies like hay fever. It works by creating a layer of film against allergens in the environment and on fabric – pretty cool right? For adults, simply spray twice into each nostril every four hours (if needed). For children, just spray once in each nostril once a day.
It's recommended to clear the nasal passages with an isotonic solution and blow your nose before spraying it into your nostrils. After spraying, gently pinch the nose between two fingers to spread the protective film across the whole area.
If you’re okay with taking tablets, a great alternative could be the Pollinosan Hay Fever Tablets by A.Vogel. Classed as a homeopathic product, these tablets are designed to help with symptoms of hay fever like sneezing, as well as itchy throat, nose and eyes. Adults, the elderly and children over 12 years can take 2 tablets, 3 times daily before meals. Don’t take more than 6 tablets a day.
If tablets aren’t an option for you, then you may want to try something in a liquid format instead. The Propolis Liquid by Bee Health can even be consumed in a range of different ways, including gargled, drank or applied to the skin.
For internal use, add 4-5 drops in half a glass of warm liquid once or twice a day. For external use, apply to the skin where necessary using a cotton bud or piece of linen moistened with the liquid.
Additionally, using an air spray like this one from Puressentiel may help to keep potential allergens like pollen at bay. Not only that, it acts as a delightful-smelling room spray to leave your home feeling fresh as well as working to help remove sources of allergens.
For targeted use, spray 6-8 times (3-5 ml) into the air, in the four corners of the room. Leave to act for at least 30 minutes and air the room afterwards. Can be sprayed onto carpets, bedding and other surfaces; just remember to carry out a preliminary test. For daily use, spray twice in one or two applications.
Another option if you’re able to take tablets are these Holland & Barrett Bee Propolis capsules. Used by humans for centuries, bees gather and metabolise Propolis to help build their hives. It also contains resin, waxes and bioflavonoids.
Irritated eyes are a common symptom of hay fever, so it might be worth picking something up to help them. These moisturising eye drops from A.Vogel are great for dry, irritated, tired eyes as they help to maintain lubrication of the eye. Adults can add 1 drop to each eye, 4-5 times a day and children can have 1 drop in each eye, 1-2 times a day.
And lastly, using a barrier cream on your nose might help to trap pollen before it reaches your nostrils. This one from Haymax works by preventing the majority of pollen from getting into your nasal tract, which then helps to keep you below your sensitivity or trigger levels. Simply apply a thin layer to the base of your nostrils and re-apply as often as needed.
There’s a lot of speculation and anecdotal advice on supplements that could provide alternative support for hay fever.
But scientific evidence is generally lacking or inconclusive. So, here we focus on two ingredients where research connecting them to hay fever is established or growing.
Quercetin is a “natural” that has been found to play both antihistamine and powerful anti-inflammatory properties.5
It’s got some great nutritional credentials when it comes to dealing with hay fever symptoms.5
It’s commonly found in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, red grapes and berries. But for the highest concentrations, look to onions and apples. Quercetin also comes as a food supplement.
What you eat may make a difference to the intensity of your hay fever symptoms. It's believed that some foods might exacerbate allergic reactions.6
“Take time to identify any foods that could be irritating your immune system and increasing histamine levels and congestion,” says Emily.
“But remember, although nutrition can play a role in managing the severity of hay fever symptoms, the results won’t be immediate. If you can, it pays to be prepared and to start introducing allergy-supporting ingredients into your diet before the pollen count starts to rise.”
If just the thought of a freshly mown lawn makes your nose start to twitch, these interventions for hay fever could be worth trying.
This article provides a few ways to manage hay fever that could work alongside conventional medication to navigate symptoms and allow you to enjoy the warm weather this summer.
But if your hay fever symptoms are severe, or if they are worsening other conditions, such as asthma, it’s advisable to talk to your GP about hay fever treatments too.
Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2015
Diploma in Nutritional Therapy
Emily has a long history of working with customers to guide them on what products are best suited to help them whilst offering practical support to aid with customers achieving their goals.