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7 tips against hay fever | MEN'S HEALTH

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  • Has the pollen allergy period become longer and more intense?
  • How do I recognize hay fever?
  • What helps against hay fever and pollen allergy?

The hay fever season is in full swing and with it the noses of allergy sufferers. Almost a third of Germans between the ages of 18 and 79 have now been diagnosed with some type of allergy, most commonly hay fever, according to the Allergy Information Service. That’s why scientists are constantly working on new medications, methods and tools to alleviate hay fever symptoms. If you are affected, you should know these approaches to combating pollen allergies, which we present to you here.

Has the pollen allergy period become longer and more intense?

Sneezing, itchy eyes, difficulty breathing – you could swear the symptoms have never been more severe than they are this season. You’re probably right, because according to the Federal Environment Agency, alder, birch and hazelnuts bloom earlier and earlier and produce even more pollen.

It is now the case that pollen counts practically all year round: in November the last grass and nettle pollen fly through the air, and in December the first hazelnut pollen of the new season appears. Climate change is partly to blame: it is causing an unprecedented boom in allergy-causing plant substances.

Since 1990, the amount of pollen has increased by 21 percent. “I have been working as an allergist for more than 10 years, and every year seems to be the worst ever,” confirms US professor Caroline Sokol of Harvard Medical School in Boston. “Plus, the body reacts more strongly to the same allergens every year, making symptoms even worse.”

How do I recognize hay fever?

If you suddenly have an increasingly runny nose this spring, you have a choice: you caught a cold, coronaviruses caught you after all, or you react to natural allergens, such as birch pollen.

You can tell whether your immune system is allergic to pollen because your nose runs and the secretion is very thin, your nasal mucous membranes swell, you sneeze frequently, you develop a scratchy sore throat and the symptoms are worse outside than inside. Swollen eyes and a dry cough are also rare with Covid-19 and classic colds.

What helps against hay fever and pollen allergy?

We present the best 7 approaches to get to the root of the problem here:

1. Get tested for an allergy

Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the symptoms of a viral infection, for example Covid or a cold, from features of allergic rhinitis – this is a runny nose caused by allergies. In both cases, inflammation of the nasal mucosa occurs. If you want to be on the safe side, you should seek medical advice and have yourself examined.

2. Prevention instead of constantly sneezing

“It is much easier to prevent an allergy than to treat it once it has already broken out,” says Sokol. Once the body’s immune response has started, the symptoms worsen because a violent, although pointless, defensive battle takes place in the mucous membrane. The body attacks the pollen as if it were a pathogen. Why this is the case has not yet been fully clarified. The only thing that is certain is that some people tend to be hypersensitive, others are more resilient.

3. Slam the door in the face of allergy triggers

It’s hard to avoid pollen completely, because it can fly for miles and is found almost everywhere in Germany, in greater or lesser concentrations. However, the burden can be reduced using various strategies. This includes:

  • Taking off clothes outside the bedroom in the evening.
  • Washing your hair before going to bed.
  • Air your apartment between 6 and 8 a.m. in the morning, then the pollen count is usually still low.

4. Use antihistamines

Hay fever attacks can usually be treated well with antihistamines. They block the effect of the body’s own messenger histamine. This plays a key role in allergic reactions. Its release causes mucous membranes to swell and the skin to itch.

Previous antihistamines often caused fatigue as a side effect. This is hardly the case with newer generation preparations. Depending on where you sniffle or itch, you can use antihistamines as a nasal spray, tablets or eye drops. If you are experiencing hay fever for the first time or only have moderate symptoms, it may be worth trying to treat it with an over-the-counter antihistamine. Their active ingredients include cetirizine and levocetirizine, loratadine and desloratadine. If the symptoms are severe, a doctor’s prescription is necessary for active ingredients such as ebastine, fexofenadine or rupatadine.

5. Turn the enemy into a friend

Immediate help is nice, but it is not the Holy Grail of allergology to stop snotty noses in the short term, but rather to get rid of the allergy itself, ideally for all time. For this purpose there is hyposensitization, which is also called specific immunotherapy (SIT). The body is constantly bombarded with allergy-triggering pollen components so that it gets used to their presence and as a result the immune system reacts to them less vehemently.

SIT exists in 2 variants. Either injections are administered by medical professionals so that the extract reaches the skin directly. Or – and this is the newer method – you don’t have to seek medical treatment as often, but rather you drip an allergen-containing liquid under your tongue or take appropriate tablets. An improvement can already be felt in the first season, and after 3 years the hay fever symptoms are said to have been eliminated by 85 percent.

6. Counteract inflammation

If antihistamines do not have the desired effect, you can also try treatment with corticosteroids. These are similar to the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisone. Here, too, there are remedies that are available without a prescription, in particular nasal sprays with a relatively low concentration of active ingredients such as mometasone, fluticasone and beclometasone. In more severe cases, this is used a few days before an expected pollen count. Next escalation level: prescription cortisone tablets, which contain prednisone or prednisolone as active ingredients.

7. Try out home remedies and tools for pollen that triggers hay fever

  • Sunglasses and masks: Outside, sunglasses that cover the eyes as much as possible and mouth and nose masks are helpful so that not as much pollen gets into the eyes and respiratory tract. Since the corona pandemic, the latter no longer seem like an alien.
  • Nasal filter: The Best Breath anti-pollen filter system, for example, consists of a filter carrier made of medical silicone (available in three sizes), which you push into your nostrils and which should not fall out even during exercise. There is a replaceable filter in it that is able to filter out particles and allergens between 20 and 60 micrometers from the air you breathe (i.e. no viruses or bacteria). The WoodyKnows nasal filter works in a similar way.
  • I was in a shower: After spending time outdoors, it makes sense to rinse your nose with isotonic saline solution. You can mix such a solution yourself using tap water and a pinch of salt or buy it ready-made. Rinsing removes pollen or other allergy triggers from the mucous membranes and can therefore alleviate hay fever symptoms. You can rinse with the cupped hand or with a nasal douche. Important: If the nasal mucous membranes are already swollen, you should use a decongestant nasal spray before the nasal shower, otherwise the liquid from the nasal rinse cannot drain away optimally.
  • Humidifiers and purifiers: They are certainly effective remedies for pollen pollution indoors, although they are not the only panacea, meaning that most pollen allergy sufferers will still not be able to avoid medication. The consoles (e.g. from Philips) use moist air and filter systems to relieve hay fever symptoms such as coughing and itchy eyes. Many manufacturers promise that they can remove up to 99% of the pollen contained in the air. When purchasing, make sure that the performance of the device can cover the size of your (bedroom) room, there are big differences. It should also work quietly enough that you can leave it running at night.

Anyone who is plagued by watery eyes, a dripping nose and a scratchy throat should first give home remedies a chance. In the long term, however, if you have regular, severe hay fever attacks, you should see an allergist so that the hay fever does not develop into bronchitis or asthma.

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