6 top tips for controlling seasonal allergies

Blog by Victoria Butler

Many people with RA tell us their joint pains lessen in the warmer weather, but if you are one of the approximately 16 million people in the UK who suffer from hay fever you will also be aware that warmer weather brings with it allergy season. To help you to get the most out of the warmer weather while controlling hay fever symptoms, we have put together some of our top tips for controlling seasonal allergies.

1. Be aware of the plants likely to cause hay fever throughout the year

There are 3 different types of pollen: Grass pollen, weed pollen and tree pollen. Pollen is a powdery substance found in seed plants and its transfer from plant to plant is necessary for their reproduction. In many plants, this transfer occurs when pollen sticks to insects such as bees but the types of pollen that can cause hay fever transfer through fine, powdery pollen floating around in the breeze, which is where your airways come into contact with it. You can find a number of useful allergy calendars for the UK online, for example this one from UK Allergy.com.

Keeping a diary of hay fever symptoms and using a calendar to see which pollens are most likely to be in the air at that time may help you to understand types of pollen you are particularly affected by.

2. Check the pollen count

Pollen season occurs from around late March to September. Like weather, the pollen count will vary by region. Find the pollen count in your area through the Met Office website.

3. Minimise your exposure to pollen

This is an obvious tip, but can be one of the hardest to do, especially when you want to get outside in the warmer weather. However, some exposure can be easily avoided. For example, you may be using the pollen count to avoid going outside on days where pollen levels are high, but if you are drying your clothes outside on these days or opening windows, you could be bringing the pollen into your home. Similarly, if you’ve been outside on a high pollen day and are suffering from hay fever symptoms, you may want to change clothes and shower to get pollen off of your skin and out of your hair.

4. Use seasonal allergy treatments

Antihistamines can help to treat a number of allergies, including hay fever. Histamine is a chemical produced by your immune system to attack allergens. The symptoms of hay fever are caused by the body trying to remove these allergens from the body, which is what your body is trying to do when it makes you sneeze or your eyes water. Antihistamines help by reducing or blocking histamine. Some are known to cause drowsiness, so you may want to check the packet for ‘non-drowsy’ tablets. Depending on your symptoms, you may also benefit from eye drops and/or nasal sprays. Your local pharmacist can advise you on this.

5. Avoid smoking and consider your alcohol intake

Smoking irritates your airways, which can make hay fever symptoms worse. You may also be aware that smoking can make your RA symptoms worse, so if you smoke, you should consider getting help with quitting. Certain alcoholic drinks, including red wine, white wine, cider and beer can also worsen your hay fever symptoms. This is because they contain histamine, produced during the fermentation process. Clear spirits, such as vodka and gin have less histamine, so have less of an impact on these symptoms. In RA, it is also important to make sure that you know the advice on levels of alcohol consumption for the medications you are taking.

6. Head to the coast

Pollen counts are lower close to the sea. This is because the strong sea breezes blow allergens away while moisture in the air prevents pollen travelling too much.

What steps do you take when managing your hay fever? Do you face similar challenges when managing your RA? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.