Firstly, how can you tell the difference between a cold and an allergy?
Although you may feel an itch before you sneeze, whatever the reason, if the roof of your mouth or eyes feel itchy and this accompanies the symptoms above, your immune system is reacting to something. It could be dust, perfume, animal dander or, in the case of hayfever, pollen - floating about, merrily propagating plants, poisoning your day and torturing your nights.
When you have hayfever or allergic rhinitis, your immune system has mistakenly identified pollen or another substance as a threat and is giving it the full 'get outta here' treatment. It has produced antibodies for the harmless pollen and this then triggers production of histamine, which causes the inflammation and the hayfever symptoms.
How to cope with the symptoms of allergies
Avoid the allergens!
One approach is to try and avoid the allergen as much as you can. Don't go outdoors, use balms around the nose to trap pollen so that it's not inhaled, and don't dry clothes on the line outside (there's no point in dressing yourself in pollen-drenched rig-outs). Plus, you can download a pollen tracker so that you are aware of the type of pollen that you are reacting to and avoid exposure to the worst of it.
Manage your diet and lifestyle
Because the underlying cause of your symptoms is your own immune system, and the inflammation that it is causing, it makes sense to try to manage your diet and lifestyle to help contain the situation. Alcohol, coffee, dairy foods and other unhealthy food choices may worsen symptoms by aggravating inflammation in the body and making you feel itchier, snottier and more stuffed up.
Being dehydrated will worsen symptoms as those gritty eyes and puffy lips need lubrication. Get that water in; don't be a desiccated husk.
Get a good nights sleep
Sleep is necessary for repair, regeneration and keeping the immune system functioning correctly, but poor sleep quality can be one of the worst aspects of hayfever. Other allergens like dust and household chemicals can worsen symptoms at night time, and a stuffy nose makes breathing difficult. Make sure that harsh chemicals are not used in the home and the bedroom, especially, is kept as free from dust as possible.
Use a nasal spray
Use a nasal spray to keep your airways clear and to reduce discomfort. It can flush out any allergens like dust and pollen while soothing irritation. Pollinosan Nasal Spray has been formulated especially for the relief of hayfever and allergic rhinitis, and can be used by anyone over the age of six.
Keep your histamine levels down
Now, all you have to do is try to keep those histamine levels down. Histamines are the chemicals that the body produces as a way of protecting itself from invaders. They can increase the permeability of tiny blood vessels to allow our immune cells to access infected cells tucked away in tight corners and dense tissue. While this is a worthy and valuable process, it is an inflammatory response and a mediator of ITCHINESS!
Certain foods will amplify histamine levels, and you can guess what they are: yes - the yummy stuff. Think summer barbecue; wine, processed meats, cheese, fizzy drinks, sweeties and so on.
On the plus side, there are lots of tasty foods that will counteract any negatives; like Vitamin C rich foods and super herbs like nettle. Vitamin C is found in abundance in fresh fruit and vegetables and is a natural antihistamine. Because it is such a powerful antioxidant, it can reduce both oxidative stress and inflammation.
Interestingly, vitamin C has been used in a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study1 on sea sickness. High histamine is thought to be a cause of motion sickness and, using vitamin C alone, they found that 'vitamin C is effective in suppressing symptoms of seasickness'.
It will help the symptoms of allergies just as well. I love A.Vogel's Nature C tablets; they taste absolutely delicious and are not made from ascorbic acid, like most vitamin C supplements, but from organic freeze-dried fruit. It has a very high absorption rate and contains all those lovely bioflavonoids and other compounds that can be found in real food.
Nettle is another simple and amazing solution, traditionally used to treat itchy skin conditions like prickly heat and eczema. There have been numerous studies2 on its activity as an anti-inflammatory and its effect on conditions like allergic rhinitis and gout. I love that our common weeds can turn out to be so useful. I can almost forgive it for all my childhood stings that were a daily menace as I scrambled over walls and through bushes in my shorts.
A.Vogel's Stinging Nettle is organically and sustainably grown and we use all parts of the plant to ensure that all of the plant's active components are in the remedies, the way that nature intended.
Pollinosan Hayfever tablets
Pollinosan Hayfever tablets are A.Vogel's licensed solution for relief of sneezing, itchy, runny nose, eyes and throat. You can use it alone or alongside your Pollinosan Nasal Spray, depending on the severity of your symptoms. It is suitable from the age of twelve and can be taken three times a day.
For those who prefer a tincture, Luffa Complex is a vegan alternative and can be recommended from the age of two.
Regardless of what solution you choose to help with your hayfever symptoms, do try and start as early as possible, as it is better to keep things at bay rather than control a fire started.
Enjoy your summer!