10 natural ways to ease hay fever and be sure it's not covid

Kate Langrish
·7-min read
Photo credit: stock_colors - Getty Images
Photo credit: stock_colors - Getty Images

It may be summertime, but for the estimated one in five who suffer from hay fever, the living is far from easy. A tickly, runny nose and itchy, streaming eyes will blight many a sunny day for those afflicted. And now new evidence, published in the esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, suggests that climate change may be compounding the misery by triggering larger quantities of pollen over a longer period.

In the UK, the season can now stretch for seven months of the year, beginning with the release of tree pollen in March, peaking in June and July with grass pollen and carrying on until September when weed pollen and fungal spores spread. Antihistamines and steroid nasal sprays are still the go-to remedy for many, but for those looking to add to their allergy-fighting armoury or more natural solutions, we’ve cherry-picked some of the best.

10 natural hay fever remedies

1. Beware ‘pollenution’

Hay fever is a bit of a misnomer as this lurgy is not just a rural problem. Air in towns and cities can sometimes be equally culpable. “Lots of people find their hay fever is worse when there’s high pollution,” explains Jessica Kirby, head of health advice at Asthma UK (asthma.org.uk). “Pollution molecules stick to pollen grains, so they hang about in the air longer and are harder to get out of your airways.”

Traffic smog can trap pollen-filled air near ground level. If you’re a sufferer from the suburbs, try to avoid built-up areas when the pollen count is high. If you can’t, invest in a pair of wraparound sunglasses and apply a little Vaseline around your nostrils: both can block the pollen from getting into your system.

2. Make home a pollen-free zone

Don’t invite the enemy in. If you’ve been exposed to pollen, change your clothes, shower and wash your hair as soon as you get home. Experts also recommend keeping windows closed on high pollen-count days, and dusting and vacuuming regularly, using a model preferably with a HEPA filter. Avoid drying clothes outside as they can pick up pollen and – however pretty those blowsy summer blooms – don’t bring flowers into the house. Also bear in mind that pets can be pollen carriers, so give them regular baths when the count is high.

3. Follow your gut instinct

We’re increasingly aware of the role that ‘good bacteria’ plays within our immune system, and now a US study suggests that probiotics may have the potential to ease hay fever symptoms of an itchy, blocked or runny nose. Try boosting your probiotic intake with ‘live’ sauerkraut and kimchi rather than yogurt, as dairy foods can increase the production of mucus. Miso soup is also full of probiotics and, when prepared as a hot drink, can help to soothe an aggravated throat and stuffy nose.

Hay fever or Covid-19?

Seasonal allergy symptoms can be confused with Covid, so what are the defining features of hay fever? We asked Holly Shaw, clinical nurse advisor at Allergy UK

  • It does not cause a fever – despite the name. Conversely, a high temperature is one of the main symptoms of Covid-19.

  • Symptoms commonly affect the nasal passages, such as a runny or blocked nose and sneezing. These are not listed as main symptoms of Covid-19 by the NHS.

  • Hay fever will not trigger a change to your taste and smell.

  • It tends to affect sufferers on a seasonal basis, at a similar time each year.

  • Symptoms are usually alleviated by antihistamine medication.

  • Note that both hay fever and Covid-19 can cause a cough.

4. Keep your cool

New evidence suggests that stress could aggravate allergic responses like hay fever. A recent report published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that allergy sufferers with the most flare-ups also had higher stress levels. Of course, this can be a vicious circle.

“Persistent and problematic symptoms can be stressful, especially if these symptoms impact daily living, schooling and work,” says Holly Shaw, clinical nurse advisor at Allergy UK. To break out of the stress/symptom cycle, try yoga (Yoga with Adriene has millions of followers and her free online classes are suitable for all). Studies show it may help to reduce stress levels, plus it’s easy to do indoors, so, unlike walking or running , you won’t need to fit it in around high pollen counts.

5. Go easy on your nose

Avoid the temptation to reach for a hanky every 20 seconds. “If your nose is running or congested, you may feel the need to blow it, but do this as gently as possible, as the nasal passages can become inflamed and sensitive,” Holly explains. “Saline nasal sprays and irrigation can help soothe inflammation and clear the nasal passage of any impurities and allergens.”

A steamy cup of herbal tea can also help to relieve a blocked nose: the menthol in peppermint may help to improve nasal air flow, while ginger is soothing for a sore throat.

6. Snap up the app

Forewarned is forearmed: a number of apps can give you the heads-up about when you might be better staying indoors. The Met Office produces a daily pollen forecast from March to September, with opt-in notifications. Pollen.com provides a forecast for specific types of allergy, from trees to flowers. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, too, with the BBC Weather app.

Pollen counts peak on warm summer days with low humidity and a gentle breeze. Pollen levels are lower after it’s rained, but tread carefully around thunderstorms. “They can cause your symptoms to flare up, because they smash pollen into tiny bits that
go deeper into your lungs,” Jessica Kirby says.

7. Plant smart

There are plenty of ways to tweak your garden to reduce the number of potential allergens. If you’re allergic to tree pollen, avoid wind-pollinated trees (such as ash, birch, horse chestnut or plane). Instead, look to insect-pollinated plants such as fruit trees, which produce heavier pollen that’s not so easily blown around.

The same goes for flowers: the pollinator-friendly types are likely to be better, particularly those that encase the pollen with a bloom, such as foxglovesc. Those allergic to grass pollen may want to avoid ornamental grasses. You can also reduce risks by avoiding your garden in the early morning and evening, when pollen is likely to be at its highest.

“I’m allergic to my job!”

Emma-Louise Pritchard, CL’s executive digital editor, on the hazards of being a reporter out in the field. Follow Emma-Louise's job at Country Living on Instagram @emmalouisepritchard.

Photo credit: Emma-Louise Pritchard
Photo credit: Emma-Louise Pritchard


“I’m one of those people with a long list of allergens – pollen, hay, horses, rabbits… When I was a child, I wanted to ride but I had to wear a beanie (to contain my dust-trapping long hair) and sunglasses, all year round. When my mother finally insisted it wasn’t the hobby for me, my streaming eyes weren’t just down to the allergy. Ironically, I landed a dream job that involves visiting farms, gardens, woods and, yes, even stables. Last spring, I went to an equine therapy centre in Gloucestershire. Ponies plus hay plus pollen equalled potential disaster. I had to ‘social distance’ from the animals and, as always, I had my allergy first aid kit to hand – tissues, hair bands, sunglasses, antihistamines, inhaler (I also have asthma), lip balm (not being able to breathe through my nose makes my lips dry) and hand sanitiser. This kit is my lifesaver. I always take it when I’m filming in the countryside. It allows me to do a job I love without pesky allergies taking me down.”

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.SIGN UP

Looking for some positivity? Get Country Living magazine posted through your letterbox every month. SUBSCRIBE NOW

You Might Also Like