Dee’s Three Part Hay Fever Battle Plan
by Dee Atkinson, Medical Herbalist, FNIMH
The final weeks of March and the beginning of April often signal the beginning of the hay fever and allergy season. However, this year, we’ve only just left February behind and I am already seeing some patients with allergy symptoms.
Not good news for hay fever sufferers and, with many of us spending more time outdoors at the moment, I would recommend preparing early to minimise the symptoms. Every year I see more and more people, who have never had any allergy problem, suddenly develop symptoms. I am sure this is due to disruption in our underlying immunity, gut health issues and stress levels. There is never usually a single cause for any health issue, it is more often the meeting of many small underlying issues all at the same time. A mild sensitivity to pollens can become a big sensitivity when one is stressed, possibly eating the wrong foods and coming into contact with more of the pollen allergens on a daily basis.
The usual symptoms are itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, even sore throats and headaches. Over the last few years, I have seen a big increase in Spring skin related allergies.
I have a lot of theories on why this is happening; on why our immune systems are being more challenged. Everything from our diet to the chemicals in our home, all challenge our immune system. When an already challenged immune system is faced by further hurdles, such as a high pollen count, there can be a breakdown and allergy symptoms develop, even to people who have never suffered from any allergy symptoms in the past.
If you are a regular hay fever sufferer, the best way to get on top of the problem is to start treatment before the problem actually develops. Once an allergy situation has developed it can be difficult to treat and you are often left trying to manage the situation, rather than cure it. Allergy has a domino effect on the body. You often find that you start off sensitive to one thing and, before you know, it you are sensitive to a whole range of things.
Over the last few years I have developed a three part allergy/hay fever battle plan that can reduce, if not stop your symptoms.
Start a few weeks before your symptoms usually develop.
Plan to cut dairy products out of your diet. Dairy can make any allergy you suffer worse and will cause mucus production, making runny noses and blocked sinuses worse. Try and be very strict, cutting out all cow’s milk products and using goat and sheep’s cheese, soya milk and dairy free spreads instead. Remember that milk chocolate is a dairy product - but dark chocolate is dairy free! There are so many milk alternatives - coconut based yogurts, soya yogurt and goat/ sheep options - that this is not as complex as it sounds. If you add some fermented foods to your diet, such as kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut as well as live dairy free yogurts, it will support your gut microbiome and your overall immunity
Start taking a teaspoon of local honey each day.
Honey, which is made from pollen, acts almost homoeopathically by helping your body to build up a resistance to pollens and grasses. Local honey will be specific to the pollens and grasses in your area. If you live in Edinburgh or the Lothians then you’ll be pleased to know that we stock a range of delicious local honeys from The Edinburgh Honey Co in our Bristo Place shop.
Simple herbal remedies can be used to ease allergy symptoms.
Chamomile soothes mucus membranes and a sinus rub can ease sinus pain and congestion. These herbs are available pre-blended or you can buy the dried herbs and make up your own herbal tea.
Our Summer Blend Tea is rich in the herbs traditionally used for their soothing and anti-allergy properties and contains eyebright, chamomile, liquorice, elderflower and nettle.
Drunk regularly as a food supplement, these teas will help to prevent and control symptoms.
Our Echinacea and elderflower can also help relieve symptoms. This traditional mixture containing anti-catarrhal and expectorant herbs has a stimulant effect on the immune system.
If you are suffering from hot, itchy eyes, you can also try using a cold chamomile tea bag as an eye compress.
A Word on Relief for Summer Skin Allergies
If you suffer from skin allergies or heat rashes (also a form of allergy) try cutting dairy products out of your diet for a few months to see if it helps. A tea made out of dandelion leaf will ease heat rash and swollen ankles and reduce skin allergies.