10 Unexpected Facts about Hay Fever

Why do we get hay fever?
Hay fever is a result of our immune system’s overreaction to pollen. Too much pollen stimulates the body’s mast cells, which then break or degranulate, releasing mediators that include histamines. These mediators can cause many symptoms including the unpleasant itching, red eyes, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and itchy roof of the mouth and ears associated with hay fever.

1. It’s the histamines which cause your symptoms – hay fever symptoms actually come from you! Histamine is produced by the body when it thinks the immune system is under attack. When pollen enters the body of a hay fever sufferer, it triggers the production of histamine, which then creates all those unwanted symptoms. That’s why anti-histamines can help. (But histamines are the things in the brain which keep us alert, attentive and awake, so that’s why anti-histamines can make you drowsy).

2. Going for the hottest curry on the menu can actually help your hay fever – or if you’re making your own, go heavy on the spices. Turmeric, an orange-yellow spice, widely used in curries and South Asian cuisine, is believed to reduce inflammation caused by the enzyme phospholipase A2, which is provoked into action by pollen in your system.

3. Sex can help your hay fever! At the point of orgasm the sympathetic nervous system constricts blood vessels across the body and an Iranian neurologist has suggested that this could help with hay fever. What could be a more pleasant way to deal with hay fever than that? Although there may be some practical issues around timing and locations!

4. Flowers are less likely to cause hay fever. Hay fever is caused by airborne pollen particles that have blown away from the plant. However, flower pollen is sticky and coated, which lessens its ability to become airborne. In fact, trees and grass are most likely to cause the sneezing. But that doesn’t mean flowers don’t cause hay fever – some people are very allergic to specific flowers, and you can be allergic to more than one type of pollen.

5. Some foods are natural anti-histamines! Capers, red onions and watercress contain high amounts of the natural antihistamine quercetin, which can help reduce hay fever symptoms by blocking the effects of histamines. Combine with pineapple, as it contains bromelain, which helps the body to absorb quercetin.

6. The attractive, bright orange and red colours of some of our favourite fruits signal that they’re rich in beta carotene, vitamin C and a substance called bioflavonoids. These nutrients are anti-inflammatory agents and are said to boost the immune system.

7. Hay fever lasts for years – 80% of children diagnosed with hay fever will still be suffering ten years later and 40% of young adults will still be sneezing into their 20s.

8. Oral Allergy Syndrome is the name given to allergic reactions in and around the mouth area of hay fever sufferers; such as tingling, a rash and burning sensation. This is caused by contact with proteins in foods which are similar to proteins found in pollens that the hay fever sufferer is allergic to. For example, birch pollen proteins are similar to those found in kiwi fruits. When a hay fever sufferer who is allergic to birch pollen eats kiwi (amongst other foods), the body recognises the proteins as harmful and might trigger an allergic reaction.

9. Research from the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands shows that suffering from hay fever can affect driving ability to the same degree as drinking two to three units of alcohol, the legal limit in most European countries.

10. Using a simple organic drug-free allergen barrier balm can help! In an Allergy UK survey 80% of respondents said that the HayMax allergen barrier balm worked. – When asked “Overall, did HayMax work?”, 134 out of 166 respondents said “Yes”, in a 2015 Allergy UK survey – ‘The Impact of Hay Fever – a survey by Allergy UK’, Allergy UK, June 2015, supported and funded by HayMax.