Control your hayfever

Atishoo! Atishoo! Your eyes are streaming, your nose is running and you are constantly reaching for tissues.

It is hayfever season and if you are unfortunate enough to be a sufferer then you know all about the discomfort this condition can cause.

While others are basking in the sunshine you are battling to keep the sneezes at bay. Summer for you means endless sniffling, sneezing and general misery.

The most common allergic disease in Ireland it is estimated that up to 15 per cent of the Irish population suffer from it. It is most prevalent from May until September.

It is caused by an allergy, often to pollen and sometimes mould spores. The body’s immune system overreacts to the presence of external substances, this results in inflammation and irritation.

The symptoms which include sneezing, streaming eyes and a runny nose are caused by a chemical called histamine which the body produces when it absorbs pollen from the atmosphere.

Different pollens and allergans are present at different times of the year so the time of year that various people are affected depends on the trigger to which you are allergic.

It can occur at any stage although it usually tends to develop during childhood. The condition can be inherited and it is not unusual for several members of the same family to be affected. Sufferers are more likely to develop it if they were born slightly before or during a pollen season. There are more than 30 types of pollen and 20 types of spores which can trigger hayfever. They are small and light enough to be carried in the air over long distances during the day. Most pollen is released in the morning and rises up with the heat of the day then returns back to the earth in the late afternoon.

Although not regarded as a serious illness it is estimated that three per cent of sufferers have to take time off work and 22 per cent suffer severe symptoms, seriously affecting their quality of life. Many are in their teens and suffer much misery as the peak hayfever season occurs during exam time. Males appear to be more prone to hayfever than females. About 80 per cent of people with asthma suffer from hayfever.

More people nowadays tend to be affected by the condition although the reason for this is not clear. Research carried out in Britain suggests that people living in towns and cities are twice as likely to suffer from the condition as those in the countryside even though pollen levels are far lower. Scientists believe the most likely cause is the nitrogen dioxide gases found in car exhaust fumes and diesel particles.

How to manage hayfever

* Avoid allergans when possible

* Stay indoors between 11am and 4pm and keep windows closed at peak pollen release times - 7am to 10am and 5 to 7pm. Do not hang out washing during those times

* Keep your fringe off your face because pollen can get trapped in it

* Avoid mascara because pollen sticks to it

* Be aware of the pollen count and avoid areas of high pollen concentration

* Avoid going out after a thunderstorm as this is often a time of high pollen levels

* Damp down any dust and vacuum your home regularly to reduce the presence of pollen and dust

* Use a clothes dryer rather than hanging your bed linen on the washing line

* When going outdoors during the day wear sunglasses. Wraparound styles are best to help prevent pollen from getting into your eyes

* Smear a little Vaseline inside your nose to prevent pollen from lodging in its lining

* Try to stay away from parks or fields or anywhere with a lot of grass

* Keep car windows closed

* Nasal sprays are an option to prevent the onset of symptoms. They treat sneezing, itchy, runny noses and eyes as well as congestion and other symptoms

* Remember that on hot days high pollen levels can last until the evening in cities

* Ensure that your intake of vitamins, minerals and trace elements is adequate. Eat foods high in the vitamin B complexes, manganese, chromium and iron. Garlic is advisable, also.

* Head to the coast for holidays where pollen levels are lower

* Taking cod liver oil daily may help because it reduces inflammation. Some experts say people should avoid alcohol, nicotine, chocolate, spices, coffee and tea

* Do not grow allergenic plants. Your local garden centre will advise you

* Air bedclothes in direct sunlight

* Use an air filter when possible to remove pollen and other allergans from the air

* A pollen count of 50 or above will generally be expected to result in symptoms. However, some people may experience symptoms when counts are as low as 10

* Aromatherapy oils such as eucalyptus or olbas can be used in a candle burner while scented candles may also improve the air quality

* Keep your grass cut short

* Use a fan on sunny days rather than opening windows

* Keep car windows closed when the grass is being cut

* Use an air filter when possible to remove pollen and other allergans from the air

* Minimise clutter in your house because it will collect dust and pollens

* Fit wood, tile or vinyl floors rather than carpet because these can be mopped regularly

* Avoid foods which cause inflammation and increase mucous production

* Splash your eyes with cold water regularly. This will help flush out pollen and soothe and cool your eyes

* Avoid having fresh flowers in your home

* Shower and shampoo before bed particularly if you have been out walking or gardening. Wash your hair and change your clothes. This will prevent you from carrying spores and pollen around the house.

* Keep furry pets out of the house during the hayfever season.

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