For hay fever sufferers the arrival of spring and summer is tinged with fear thanks to the knowledge that a lunch munched al fresco could be marred by red, streaming eyes and a perpetually streaming nose.
While many will brush off hay fever as a trivial problem, studies have shown that hay fever can severely impact quality of life, disturbing sleep, causing people to skip work, and impairing concentration and the ability to carry out tasks.
“Classic hay fever symptoms including a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing are not only irritating and uncomfortable but can seriously affect your daily life,” explains Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, Director and GP at Your Doctor.
“These symptoms can cause impaired sleep and reduce school performance or your attendance at work but less well known symptoms include nasal congestion, facial pains and post nasal drip.
And Dr Di Cuffa says that recent research from the University of Maastricht has shown that hay fever can affect normal activities such as driving, to the same effect as drinking 2-3 units of alcohol.
While there’s really no escaping pollen, the main cause of our hay fever hell, there are ways to limit symptoms this hay fever season.
And who better to recommend the things that work, than hay fever sufferers who have tried em.
Not just a fashion statement your sunnies can help put a stop to hay fever symptoms. The more wraparound in style, the better.
"Wraparound glasses stop pollen from entering the eyes,” explains Marlene Hochstrasser, Clinical Director of the Devon Allergy Clinic. “When pollen is outside the body it doesn't affect us, but if we have an allergy to pollen we need to stop it. Normal sunglasses have a bit at the side that allows pollen into our eyes but wraparound ones don't so they protect the side of the eyes and are better at stopping the pollen."
READ MORE: Hay fever wipes are here to save your summer
Wash your hair
"If you wash you hair as soon as you get in the house, this removes the pollen from it,” explains Hochstrasser. “It is especially useful on very high pollen count days, so you're not bringing pollen into the house and causing more problems."
Don’t put laundry on the line
According to Hochstrasser we shouldn’t put laundry on the line to dry as this brings pollen from the outside into your home, causing hay fever symptoms indoors.
"Acupressure bands have been developed to apply pressure to the LI-11 acupoint on the elbow, known in Chinese as Quchi,” explains Andrew Broch from the Leeds Acupuncture Clinic.
“Acupuncturists believe stimulation of this point pulls energy away from the head, nose, face and throat.” He recommends The Qu-Chi Hayfever Band.
Eat local honey
The theory with local honey is that it will de-sensitise hay fever sufferers to their local pollen.
“The NHS have a big programme of sublingual immunotherapy which takes place over 3 years, with every day each patient takes some pollen,” says Hochstrasser. “It has good results. With local honey, you're also having that pollen although to varying degrees because it depends on the pollen content in each specific honey.
“In principle it could be de-sensitisation and it may have worked when we didn't move around the country so much.”
But Hochstrassers says those trying the remedy should bear in mind that some local bee keepers feed their bees sugar and there's not a lot of evidence to back this one up.
READ MORE: Everything you need to know about hay fever
According to Dr Di Cuffa Beer, wine and spirits all contain histamines which produce allergy symptoms which can make hay fever worse.
“Alcohol can also make you feel more dehydrated, which may make symptoms seem even more uncomfortable,” he adds.
Wear a scarf
"This works because it keep the pollen out of our hair,” explains Hochstrasser. “When we do things like touch our hair the pollen can then get transferred into the body via the mouth, ears, eyes or nose and cause symptoms."
Use nasal sprays
According to Hochstresser there are two types of nasal sprays: medicated which can contain a steroid and those containing plain salt water.
“The medicated ones are anti-inflammatory so they help if you have an inflamed nose and the plain salt water ones work by washing the pollen out of your nose so there is no pollen to react to," she adds.
“According to The National Pollen and Aerobiology Research Unit, those who exercise more frequently experience less frequent symptoms of hay fever,” says Dr Di Cuffa.
“This could be partly down to stress relief as endorphins are released during workouts. Try and avoid too much exercise when the pollen count is high though, as this could irritate symptoms - especially outdoor activity such as running.”
Time to dig out the duster!
"Pollen and dust can cling to your home," explains Shamir Patel, founder of Chemist 4 U.
"So as well as washing your clothes you should also make an extra effort to clean your home every day. Dusting is essential and washing linen often is also a good idea. It's likely during the hot weather that you'll have your windows open to let in the fresh air, but you'll also likely let in pollen and dust too - so be mindful of that.
“Cleaning is something we all do pretty regularly anyway, so turning it up a notch seems like a small price to pay if it means bidding the hay fever symptoms goodbye.”
Avoid seeded fruits
"Some people with hay fever suffer with something else called tree pollen syndrome or oral allergy syndrome,” explains Hochstrasser. “What happens when these sufferers have hay fever is to do with the chemical composition of raw fruits which are very similar to the chemical composition of tree pollens.”
So when you bite on the seeded fruit the mast cells in the mouth do a bit of a 'confused.com' and think it's pollen.
“All of a sudden there's a reaction such as swelling in the mouth or a tightening of the throat, but there's not anaphylaxis. Your immune system is confused and thinks it's something dangerous when it isn't. If the fruit is cooked you don't get the symptoms."
User barrier balm
Smearing a barrier balm around your nose helps to keep pollen out of the body.
"Organic allergen barrier balms doesn't let pollen cause symptoms in the first place and literally makes a barrier between the outside world and the mucus lining of the nasal passage,” explains Hochstrasser. She recommends HayMax (www.haymax.biz).