One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed about hayfever is how debilitating it is. And how little a non-sufferer understands!
I have a long-suffering relationship with hayfever. Growing up I had no symptoms and did not suffer at all but as I reached the age of 16 all that changed. The hayfever symptoms I have suffered with over the last 14 years have been unbearable – so much so that I fear driving (I sneeze so often that I don’t feel safe behind the wheel!) and I spend a large portion of my time crying inside and complaining how unfair it is.
I have, however, started to find things that help me manage my symptoms and if this little post can help just one person I’ll be super happy.
- Pollen awareness
At risk of sounding like a Government Coronavirus slogan (stay alert guys!) an awareness of 2 key things has been crucial in managing my symptoms:
- What pollen you are allergic to
Hay fever is triggered for sufferers by one of three types of pollen: Tree, Grass and Weed. Each of which has a different ‘season.’ My symptoms became so severe that I was sent to hospital for tests and my hayfever is triggered by birch trees (moderately) and grass (severely). If you are seriously struggling, I would suggest contacting your GP and seeing if you can get referred for one of these tests – I had a blood test and skin prick test (where they prick your skin with a range of allergens and look for a reaction). It helped me to understand when I would be experiencing symptoms as tree pollen is prevalent in March – Mid May and grass pollen in Mid-May to July. Weed pollen (which I don’t suffer at the hands of) is later in the summer, from June to September typically.
- What is the pollen count where you are?
Pollen counts can be vastly different depending on the day, the weather and your location. I find The Weather Channel allergy tracker to largely be the most accurate. It breaks the pollen count into the 3 main ‘offenders’ at that time of year and ranks them from zero, to very high in terms of count for the day. It also gives a detailed 3 day forecast for each pollen type so you can prepare for what is coming. Pollen is usually highest in the morning and the evening, and lower late afternoon so I use the pollen count knowledge to plan when I can take my dog for a walk (which can be hellish in high-pollen!).
The biggest relief I get from my symptoms is through showering. I swear during grass pollen season our water bill must go through the roof! I have between 2 and 5 showers a day (sometimes more if I am working from home!) and it really gives me a small window of time where I can just breathe.
I also make sure that I only wear my clothes once before washing them to remove any pollen that has gathered on them throughout the day. This is essentially crucial if I have dared to venture outside at any point.
Some other small changes I make include:
- Drying all of our clothes and sheets in the tumble dryer to avoid picking up pollen outside.
- Leave the house when my boyfriend cuts our grass – I know that it will send my hayfever
WILD, even with the windows closed, so I remove myself from the situation (my parents put artificial grass in to help me manage so I usually go and hang out there!)
- Bathing my dog – much to her dismay! But she brings the pollen in on her feet and fur so she gets bathed a lot more frequently in the summer months. It also helps to cool her down so it a win win really!
- Cooling eye masks – For when you want to rip your face off (I feel you) an eye mask which you can pop in the fridge to cool is an absolute lifesaver! It also helps to relieve sinus headaches which can also be triggered by our pollen pal. I use this one from The Eye Doctor, specifically designed with Hayfever in mind, and this one while I’m sat at my laptop (with the eye holes – absolute SMOOTH OPERATOR!)
- Moisturiser – HOW sore does your nose get? Mine is outrageous, from all the running, and blowing, and tissue rubbing. So ensuring I have a decent moisturiser on hand is essential for me! I’ve been using this one from Simple (not affiliated) and can vouch for it as effective!
3. The right medication – Flashback to my year 11 prom and jewellery shopping with my mum. I had just taken a Piriton tablet and my skin started to itch and go read. My hands started, and continued, to swell so much that the ring I had tried on was stuck firmly on my finger. We had to buy the ring (and I didn’t even wear it to prom in the end!)
The point being, that different active ingredients react differently with everyone. The only antihistamine that I get on with is fexofenadine which is prescription only in the UK. I’ve managed to get a repeat prescription including eye drops and a nasal spray which help me manage but it took me a long time to find the medication that worked for me. If the one you are using isn’t working, check the active ingredients and try a different brand with a different active ingredient. I’d always recommend chatting to your doctor too.
4. Night time prep
I find that the most difficult part of the whole palava is the fact that you can’t even get a decent night’s sleep! So I do everything I can to make bedtime a little easier:
- regularly hoovering the room and wiping down surfaces with a damp cloth (I’ll do this nearly every day to ensure we’re as pollen free as possible!)
- Keeping the windows closed – no matter how hot it gets. Trying to convince my boyfriend that we need a Dyson fan (I’ll keep you posted!)
- An extra pillow – it helps me to breathe a little easier in my sleep when my head is higher.
- Taking an antihistamine around an hour before sleeping – this won’t be possible for some as you depending on how often you can take the tablets that you use. I find at night time, though, I desperately need all the help that I can get! I also use my nasal spray and cooling eye mask right before sleeping.
- Having a box of tissues and a bottle of water next to the bed – for when that sneezing/coughing fit gets you! Always be prepared (full Girl Scout mode!)
- Showering before bed time, and making sure your clothes from the day are stored away for washing (not next to your bed – I mean actually shut in a cupboard/different room) so that pollen from the day can’t get to you!
I’m also really finding a benefit of a good skin care routine as it helps me to relax and calm down a bit (I panic every night that I’m going to have a bad night’s sleep – dramatic I know!) Taking time to apply face masks, cleanse, tone and moisturise gives me a bit of time to relax.
I’ve also recently been using Feather & Down Pillow Sprays to help me to sleep at night – particularly the Breathe Well one which includes tea tree, eucalyptus and peppermint oils to aid breathing at night.
5. Talk about it
As I mentioned earlier on, one of the most difficult aspects of having chronic hay fever is that people who do not have it do not understand how debilitating it is. It isn’t just a sniffle and a few sneezes, it is genuinely so exhausting. So I found that talking to managers at work and family members about it really helped them to understand why I was getting agitated, tired or unproductive. I’m lucky enough to work in a job where I can work flexibly, so if I need to take an hour just to shower, calm down and use my eye mask (or even have a nap) I know I can do that, and because I’ve explained my symptoms and struggles to my managers they are supportive of this.
Recently, I’ve read that alcohol contains histamines too, so I’m currently trying to avoid having a drink (hard when we’re at home 24/7!) however, if you do like a drink it is worth noting that vodka, gin and tequila are lower in histamine than, say, wine or beer.
I’ve also been researching air purifiers and am considering purchasing one, so if anyone has any recommendations for this please do let me know!
Are you suffering from hay fever? Do you have any top tips to minimise the struggle?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Until next time x