Hay fever sufferers hit with symptoms early due to mild February weather

Hay fever pollen spring. (Getty images)
Is your hay fever already starting to creep up on you? (Getty Images)

While we may welcome spring creeping up on us early, it seems the recent mild February weather is leading to an earlier peak in pollen, meaning less-welcomed problems for hay fever sufferers.

Experts have warned Alder trees specifically – British trees in the birch family – have begun pollinating early, no doubt looking lovely, but causing early sniffles and sneezes.

“This has been triggered by the mild spell of weather and a mild winter," says airborne allergens expert Max Wiseberg.

"It looks like Birch pollen – one of the worst for hay fever sufferers – is also going to be released a couple of weeks early."

However, the good news is there are a number of ways you can ward off the effects of pollen and get on top of your hay fever promptly this year. "With allergies, avoiding the allergen is the best way to deal with them – but it’s difficult when pollen is invisible," says Wiseberg, of HayMax.

"Here are a few simple avoidance tips which you can try, as well as the usual antihistamines and nasal sprays."

Hay fever prevention tips

1. Tie long hair up before you go outdoors

This, along with wearing a hat or cap when outside, can help prevent pollen particles being caught in your hair, Wiseberg advises.

"Wearing wraparound sunglasses, as well as protecting your eyes from the sun, will also help prevent pollen particles from coming in contact with your eyes," the expert adds.

Hay fever sneezing. (Getty Images)
Try to prevent pollen being caught in your hair. (Getty Images)

2. Use an organic drug-free allergen barrier balm

"This will work as a natural prevention to stop the pollen getting into your body," says Wiseberg.

"Everyone can tolerate a certain amount of pollen without reaction – known as their ‘trigger level’. Once this level is reached, an allergic reaction will start to occur. An allergen barrier balm applied around the rim of the nostrils and bones of the eyes will help reduce the amount of pollen getting in."

Check if products are suitable for children and pregnant and breast-feeding women if needed.

3. Wash your face as soon as you get home

"This will wash away allergens so that they can’t cause a reaction, and a cool compress will soothe sore eyes," explains Wiseberg.

4. Get plenty of exercise

Exercise has been linked to improving hay fever symptoms. "If you are doing an outdoor activity, try to avoid the early morning or early evening as this is when the pollen count is at its highest." Obviously we still need to fully come out of winter before you might choose to enjoy the luxury of exercising outdoors in the later evening.

A senior gentleman of African decent, lays out on a yoga mat in his living room as he exercises along with a virtual class.  He is dressed comfortably in athletic wear and has his laptop out in front of him as he follows along with the instructor and does push-ups.
A lunchtime workout may be preferable. (Getty Images)

5. Minimise stress

Yes, stress will only make allergies worse.

"You need a bit of stress to get you out of bed each day but too much and your symptoms will get worse and you’ll be sneezing and weeping and scratching and sniffing your way through the day," says Wiseberg. "So concern yourself with the big stuff and leave the little stuff to its own devices."

6. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink

Unfortunately, Wiseberg points out, "Beer, wine and spirits all contain histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in your body. In addition to making you more sensitive to pollen, alcohol also dehydrates you, making your symptoms seem worse."

Pouring red wine into wine glasses that are half full.
If you suffer from hay fever that tipple might not be worth it. (Getty Images)

7. Keep doors and windows closed

This is simply so pollen doesn't unnecessarily drift into your home or get blown in by the wind, though it's also not a bad idea for safety and keeping your home warm on chillier days too...

8. Vacuum regularly

Wiseberg suggests paying particular attention to beds and fabrics to remove pollen particles, as well as damp dust surfaces to help prevent pollen being dispersed back into the air.

9. Dry your clothes indoors

Opt for this instead of a clothes line. While this might be your preferred choice in February anyway, it's one to remember with spring just around the corner (and feeling closer then ever this year!).

"This is to prevent pollen particles being blown onto the clothes by the outside wind."

10. Don't underestimate sleep

"Hay fever can lead to tiredness, fatigue, exhaustion and can affect how you sleep, cause sleep disturbance and difficulty getting to sleep. These symptoms can in turn zap your energy levels leaving you feeling low and sluggish," explains Wiseberg.

"The expert also recommends showering at night before sleeping to remove pollen particles from your hair and body, then applying barrier balm, and washing bedding and pillowcases regularly to remove allergens.

Watch: Top tips for reducing the effects of tree pollen