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How to prepare for seasonal allergies as hay fever to reach 'all time high'

Man sneezing in a tissue outdoors. Pollen allergy, Springtime.
Hay fever season may start earlier and finish later now due to climate change. (Getty Images)

Hay fever sufferers, brace yourselves - this spring and summer is set to be an "absolute misery", according to experts.

Medical professionals have warned that the warmer temperatures that occurred earlier in the year may lead to an earlier release of pollen and other allergens into the atmosphere, triggering and worsening hay fever symptoms for millions of people in the UK.

In February, we saw mild temperatures, which led to an early release of Birch pollen. This meant that many people experienced sneezing, sniffling, and watery eyes while it was still winter.

Scientists have highlighted that climate change is influencing hay fever season to start sooner and end later than usual - which means a prolonged period of allergies for unfortunate hay fever sufferers.

Last year was considered to be one of the worst years for allergies to date, but some estimates suggest that climate change will increase the severity of hay fever season by 60%.

Independent pharmacist Rita Ghelani tells Yahoo UK that some experts believe hay fever will reach an “all-time high” in 2024 as climate change continues to impact our environment.

"These types of pollen may be high enough in February or March to trigger symptoms of hay fever that could last longer into early autumn," she says.

In order to help hay fever sufferers prepare for the season to come, Ghelani’s top advice is that "prevention is better than cure".

Be well prepared

"Hay fever and allergies can kick in very quickly," Ghelani says. "For many, as soon as you wake up in the morning, you can tell if you’re going to be impacted. Often, your eyes feel itchy and sore, your nose is congested and you feel generally foggy and lethargic."

She suggests planning ahead by incorporating some daily routines during the spring and summer months to help keep allergies at bay.

"If you know the pollen count is on the rise and you tend to suffer with allergies historically, then take a non-drowsy antihistamine at the beginning of the day, whether you’ve experienced symptoms yet or not.

"It’s better to get ahead of the symptoms and prevent them occurring, rather than wait for them to present themselves. Whilst I don’t recommend you take antihistamine every day or on a long-term basis, it’s fine to use them temporarily during the warmer months if you know you’re going to be negatively impacted by the pollen."

Keep your nose lining clear and moist

Senior Woman is having flu and she is using nasal spray to help herself. Woman using nasal spray. Nasal spray to help a cold. Sick with a rhinitis woman dripping nose. Woman applies nasal spray
Using a nasal spray to keep the inside of your nose hydrated can help ward off allergies. (Getty Images)

All that sneezing and blowing your nose during allergy season can make your sinuses irritated, dry and inflamed, prompting the body to make more sticky mucus. But this can make the problem even worse.

This is where nasal cleansing may come in handy, Ghelani advises. "By keeping the nose hydrated, you allow your body to produce healthy mucus that is liquefied and not too sticky to work effectively to keep your nose clean and fully functioning.

"Think of your nose as a filter – the mucus works to capture contaminants like pollen and prevents the particles from entering the body."

She recommends simple saline solutions like a nasal spray by Xlear, which also has antibacterial qualities, to keep the nose hydrated. "The saline will also help to remove pollen particles from the nose, so decrease the symptoms of hay fever. You need the mucus in the nose to be of a good consistency so it can do its job properly."

Look after your eyes

Another symptom of hay fever is itchy, red eyes. To relieve them, rinse your eyes when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night to clear them of any pollen that may have built up.

Face wash man splashing water cleaning washing face with facial soap in bathroom sink. Men taking care of skin, morning face wash routine for cleaning acne pimples.�
Introduce a routine of washing your eyes in the morning and at night to clear them of any pollen build-up. (Getty Images)

"Try using a good eye wash as well as an eye mask to calm the delicate skin around the eyes. Cold presses from the fridge (or even cotton wool pads soaked in cold water) will help with irritation and inflammation," Ghelani recommends.

"I would also recommend using a good daily eye drop to keep your eyes hydrated and feeling less sore or itchy. You can use an allergy eye drop or one that helps to lubricate and soothe the eyes. Ask your pharmacist for advice on which one would be best for your symptoms."

Eat well

There have been some studies linking certain foods to the alleviation of hay fever symptoms, Ghelani says. Foods with anti-inflammatory properties, like berries, oily fish, nuts and seeds may be able to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the lining of your nose and surfaces of the eyes, making them less irritated.

"Green leafy vegetables such as Kale and spinach are rich in carotenoids, these are pigments that may help to reduce inflammation caused by the release of histamine in the body, which causes allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and runny nose," she adds.

Pay attention to your wellbeing

Stay at home. Unhealthy ill young female sneeze wipe blow nose with paper tissue suffer of flu rhinitis cold respiratory infection. Sick woman feeling bad having hay fever seasonal allergy aggravation
Taking care of your health throughout hay fever season is important in reducing the severity of the condition. (Getty Images)

Stress and exercise can sometimes impact hay fever symptoms and make them worse. Drinking alcohol can also exacerbate the condition as some alcoholic drinks contain histamine, which can set off an allergic reaction in the body such as hay fever, Ghelani explains.

"So drinking too much alcohol make you more sensitive to pollen, as alcohol also dehydrates you, making your symptoms worse."

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