Hay Fever – doing its best to ruin spring since… moving to the city?

Don't spend your summer feeling like you need one of these! Credit:   Johnson Cameraface C.C. BY 2.0 via Flickr
Don’t spend your summer feeling like you need one of these! Credit: Johnson Cameraface C.C. BY 2.0 via Flickr

While most people welcome the warm weather with open arms, for hay fever suffers, spring can be unbearable.

On moving to Melbourne four years ago, hay fever was something that had never affected me. Two years in, and queue the sniffles, sneezes and itchy eyes. While it took a while for me to admit in was more than a cold, I have come to accept that for some reason, one day I just woke up with Hay Fever.

This is a story I know I am not alone in. In fact, according to the 2008-2008 Nation Health Survey 22% of the nation is affected by hay fever, a figure that which has doubled since 1980s.

What causes Hay Fever?

Hay Fever, or more correctly known as allergic rhinitis, occurs when the immune system mistakes pollen for a dangerous substance. This triggers the production of an antibody called immunoglobulin (IgE). Antibodies are usually only released to fight infection. Therefore the body thinks its under attack and activates the release of chemicals such as histamine, leukotrience and prostaglandins. These chemicals result in inflammation of the sinuses, eyes and airways to try and rid the body of infestation.

Why have I only recently contracted Hay Fever??

Hay Fever can start to effect someone at any stage in their life. Living in Melbourne can elevate the chances of being affected by allergic rhinitis. This is primarily due to Melbournes high pollen count during warm weather. As large areas of grassland to the north fertilize warm north easterlys that blow over the city.

There is rising evidence that air pollution also contributes to the increase in pollen allergies. Pollen grains can absorb heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, as well as chemicals such as nitrate and sulphur. This is known to modify the production of the IgE antibody and increase the release chemicals that are characteristic of allergic reactions.

Also, I’m sorry to admit it but #studentlyf does not do any help either. The occurrence of pollen allergies are strongly enhanced by an unhealthy lifestyle. Habits such as smoking, drugs, alcohol, bad sleeping patterns and an unhealthy diet weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to that pesky pollen.

Pollen grains under a microscope. Credit: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility/Wikimedia Commons
Pollen grains under a microscope. Credit: Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility/Wikimedia Commons

Minimise your symptoms!

Being a bit of a naturopath, I simply suggest to eat healthy and make sure to stock your body up on antihistamines, anti-inflammatories and vitamins.  This is easily achieved by eating nutrients such as:

  • Honey – surprise, surprise, honey is a wonderfood! Not only dose it have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, it is particularly beneficial as it contains pollen.Therefore honey is believed to help desensitise your body to those allergens. For the best results try to use local honey as the pollen used to produce may be similar to what you’re reacting to.
  • Carotenoids – these are naturally occuring pigments in plants that act as powerful antioxidants and can reduce inflammation in your airways. A good source of carotenoids are present in carrots, pumpkin, sweet potato, pumpkin and spinish.
  • Quercetin – a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory which has been proven to reduce hay fever symptoms. It is great for boosting your immune system. It acts as a decongestant, and is an anti-inflammatory and antihistamine. Onions and garlic are a great source of quercetin, as well as kale, berries and broccoli. 
  • Vitamin C – last but not leasts, is a known natural antihistamine and can be found in kiwifruit, oranges, lemons and grapefruit.

Alternatively it helps to be aware of the pollen count and try to avoid the outdoors when its high. As of October 1 the School of Botany at UniMelb will provide a daily pollen count via The Melbourne Pollen Count App. Antihistamine nose sprays and eye drops are also usually very effective for fast relief. In extreme cases of hay fever other kinds of treatment exist such as immunotheraphy or steroids. However if your symptoms are server to the point where they prevent sleep or concentration, it is best to see a specialist.


8 Responses to “Hay Fever – doing its best to ruin spring since… moving to the city?”

  1. majer says:

    Hi Toni, thanks for the comment! I suppose your question is quite broad. Climate and air flow definitely affects pollen spread and it will depend on were you are in Australia. As mentioned in the post, during the summer when the weather is dry, warm easterlys we experience in Melbourne blows down the high pollen concentrations in the large grass areas in the north. Season affect which plants pollinate, generally speaking trees pollinate in late winter, while flowering plants and grasses pollinate throughout spring and summer. I also read a hot tip to have holidays on the coast to take advantage of any off-shore, pollen free breezes!

  2. Jessica Breadsell says:

    Great post, I am going to show it to my Dad who has continually insisted that he doesn’t have hay fever because “he’s never had it in the past” yet year after year he exhibits the same symptoms at the same time! The pollen count app sounds great too, thanks for the tip! I loved how you included the foods that naturally help manage hay fever, so many times now we get pointed in the direction of another pill so this was refreshing.

  3. gvarveri says:

    nice article! hay fever can be one of the most annoying things to deal with as it makes you almost feel sick constantly. It’s interesting that the reason it makes you feel like that is because your is performing functions that it normal would if you actually were sick.

    heads up I herd on the news this years pollen season will be a long one!

  4. […] Hay Fever – doing its best to ruin spring since… moving to the city? […]

  5. Toni says:

    Man do I hate hay fever!! Funnily enough, global warming means that pollen counting could (and should) be a thing earlier than October 1st. My nose certainly thinks so. Does Australia’s dry climate/air help spread the pollen? Cheers for the tips!

  6. rsleaby says:

    Great post majer – your explanations of the immunology, and your use of images/subtitles were so effective. I think The Melbourne Pollen Count App is a must-have for all hay fever sufferers!

  7. togden says:

    Hi Majer,

    After yesterday being the first really bad day of hayfever I’ve had all year, this post couldn’t come at a better time! First things first I’m a big fan of the lego man, how good is lego!
    I was pretty happy when I read that honey is something that will help my symptoms. I also didn;t know that vitamin C is a natural antihistamine! I’ll definitely be eating more grapefruits and kiwifruits now, to help get me through spring!!
    I couldn’t agree more with the comment about #studentlyf, being a masters student (and pretty damn poor) its not easy to maintain a healthy diet. How do you manage to keep a healthy diet whilst studying?

  8. ahmadma says:

    Interesting post! I did not know that you could measure the pollen count every day. I will definitely download the melbourne pollen count app! it’s just annoying sneezing when i go out.