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