Hay fever sufferers have felt the brunt of symptoms over the last few weeks after reports from the Met Office predicted the highest pollen levels since 2006.
The most common symptoms of hay fever are sneezing and coughing, a runny or blocked nose, itchy, red or watery eyes, and an itchy throat, mouth, nose and ears, which can all make going about your day-to-day life difficult.
There is currently no cure for hay fever and you can’t prevent it. But there are things you can do to ease symptoms.
Putting Vaseline around your nostrils to trap pollen, showering and changing your clothes after you’ve been outside to wash pollen off, and keeping windows and doors shut as much as possible, are recommendations by the NHS.
But because hay fever is an allergy, diet may help to ease pollen problems, according to Holland and Barrett.
It recommends a diet rich in beta-carotene which the body uses to make vitamin A.
It states: “This can help keep your mucous membranes healthy rather than dry and irritated, as well as boosting your immune system.”
Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, spinach and kale are all rich in beta-carotene.
But if these foods don’t tickle your tastebuds, you can take a daily vitamin A supplement instead.
Beta-Carotene supplements are available from the high street health shop – 100 capsules are £7.99.
What foods should you cut down on in your diet?
Holland and Barrett nutritionist Emily Rollason said: “Meat, and in particular fatty red meat, but also including chicken pork and some fish, may provide high levels of inflammatory fatty acid arachidonic acid and could be a mediator in the development of allergies, such as hay fever.”
Emily suggests being mindful of this reaction, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up your beloved burgers – try cutting back on meat in your diet or maybe swapping some meat for fish.
She explains: “Try to limit these types of meats and include something with anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids, such as oily fish like salmon, mackerel and herring.”
A range of other supplements are also recommended by Emily to help stop itchy eyes and sneezing.
Emily advises: “Marshmallow root also has natural anti-inflammatory properties as well as soothing properties through a unique type of fibre the product contains called mucilage. This means that this may be useful for relief with any type of condition where inflammation or irritation occurs, such as hay fever. It may aid with soothing the lining of the respiratory tract in this case.“
Emily said: “Pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain that has natural anti-inflammatory properties and has been traditionally used to aid with inflammation in the sinuses, which can be linked to hay fever.”
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Phytotherapy Research revealed that Pycnogenol, an antioxidant pine bark extract, substantially improves the symptoms of hay fever caused by birch pollen.
Dr Malkanthi Evans, lead researcher on the study, said: “Allergic rhinitis is often mistakenly believed to be a trivial health problem, while people suffering from hay fever may disagree as they experience a dramatic impairment to their quality of life.
“This study confirmed that taking Pycnogenol naturally relieves eye and nasal symptoms of hay-fever patients owing to lower pollen-specific antibodies, particularly for ocular and nasal distress.”
One surprising way of keeping a runny nose and itchy eyes at bay is cutting down on alcohol.