Hay fever can last for weeks, or even months, and while there is no cure, you can reduce and relieve symptoms. In this post, we’ll look at the plants that are the most and least allergy-inducing for sufferers, and the precise impact that hay fever has on us. We'll also talk to Clinical Director Dr Daniel Atkinson about the best ways of combating the allergy.
The best plants for hay fever sufferers are those that are pollinated by insects. This is because insects carry the pollen from one tree to the next, rather than the pollen being dispersed entirely freely by the wind. The volume of the pollen produced and the density of it are also factors. The heavier the pollen, the more intact it remains in the tree. Some plants also have stickier pollen than others, which once more makes it harder for the wind to circulate it widely.
Let's take a look at the most preferential plants for hay fever sufferers specifically.
The worst plants for hay fever sufferers, on the other hand, are those which are pollinated by the wind. Some plants produce pollen for particularly extensive periods of time, giving them a longer window in which to affect hay fever sufferers. The sheer amount of pollen they release is also problematic for allergenic people, and even certain plants' leaves and stems, in addition to their pollen, can impact on sufferers.
Let's put this in a more specific context:
What is hay fever?
Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, is caused by an allergic response to pollen, usually affecting the mouth, eyes, nose and throat. The body makes allergic antibodies, or allergens, to pollen, which produces the allergic reaction. Pollen is a type of fine powder that comes from plants.
Grass, trees and weeds all trigger hay fever, and it affects both adults and children.
What are its symptoms?
Symptoms of hay fever include:
- coughing and sneezing
- a blocked or runny nose
- red, itchy or watery eyes
- itchy mouth, throat, nose and ears
- loss of smell
- pain around forehead and temples
When does the hay fever season start and finish?
Hay fever tends to be most significant between late March and September, particularly in warm, humid and breezy conditions. Grass pollen, the most common allergen, is especially potent between May and July, while tree pollen is pervasive between February and June. Weed pollens can also give rise to hay fever, and are more of a risk factor between June and September.
What impact does hay fever have on people’s health?
The effects of hay fever can be extremely draining and fatiguing, with some people having to take time off work due to incessant sneezing and an itchy or runny nose. According to Allergy UK, it has been shown to have detrimental effects on teenagers’ school work and exam success, as well as triggering sleep deprivation and restricted concentration. In fact, in their 2016 survey, Allergy UK discovered that as many as 92% of respondents said that their hay fever impacted on their work, school and day-to-day routine, while 81% stated that their hay fever adversely affected their mood.
Who is susceptible to hay fever?
People who are genetically predisposed to hay fever are more likely to develop it. Air pollution also makes people more vulnerable to the allergy, as pollutants from vehicle exhausts upset the respiratory tract, meaning that symptoms are made worse and increase the allergic response. The more chaotic pace of urban living is believed to be a factor too, as greater stress levels go hand-in-hand with a greater likelihood of developing hay fever.
Grass pollen in particular can trigger asthma attacks in asthmatics, and these people should be especially proactive when it comes to taking their reliever and preventative inhalers when grass pollen levels peak in the middle of June.
What treatments are there for hay fever?
Antihistamine tablets, drops or sprays can be effective in combating the inflammatory effects of hay fever and are available from pharmacies.
GPs sometimes prescribe people with steroids as a means of treatment. Failing this, immunotherapy is an option, in which you’ll be given small doses of pollen via an injection or tablet to gradually increase your immunity to the powder. Immunotherapy often takes place in winter prior to the hay fever season starting.
We asked Dr Atkinson about what to do and what not to do during hay fever season:
- use Vaseline on your nostrils to trap pollen
- wear wraparound sunglasses to prevent pollen from getting in your eyes
- shut windows and doors as often as you can
- vacuum frequently and dust using a damp cloth
- purchase a pollen filter for your car air vents and a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
- walk on or cut grass
- have fresh flowers in your house
- smoke or be in the vicinity of smoke
- dry clothes outside - they can get covered in pollen
- allow pets to come into the house, wherever possible