HEALTH AND WELLBEING // Tips For Managing Hay Fever Season In The Southern Highlands
How to get proactive about allergies and hay fever this spring
When the Highlands lights up in spring with bright white blossoms, yellow wattle and pink flowering pear trees, everyone loves it, right?
Those of us who suffer from springtime allergies and hay fever find this time of year to be quite uncomfortable. Sneezing, runny noses, itchy throats, watery eyes – it’s a hard, few months to get through at the best of times, let alone when there is a new and nasty virus going around that has similar symptoms!
So, what is hay fever and what causes it?
“Hay fever is when pollen grains get trapped in the lining of the nose or eyes, and release their allergens,” says pharmacist, Catherine Yee of Capital Chemist Bowral.
“This causes irritation and an increased production of mucus (yuk!) or tears.”
“Some people’s bodies recognise the pollens as being potentially harmful, so try to expel it from the body by creating mucus (ewwww...there’s that word again!) and tears.”
So, in an area where there are blossom trees on every street corner, paddocks for days and national parks coming at us from every angle, how do hay fever sufferers manage their symptoms and minimise the impact it can have on their daily life?
“The key is being proactive with treatments, keeping an eye on the weather and pollen counts, knowing your triggers and working with a health professional to keep on top of the challenges associated with hay fever at this time of year,” says Catherine.
Here’s some of Catherine’s top tips for doing just that.
1 // Wise up to the weather
The weather (especially when it’s windy!) plays a big part in whether you’re going to have a good day or a bad day. Download the BOM app for instant info on when the winds will be whipping up, and stay indoors as much as you can when it’s looking blowy outside.
You can also download AusPollen to capture pollen counts but unfortunately they only cover Sydney and Canberra at the moment (good if you’re travelling!). Keep an eye on the weather reports of local news. Most of them have predicted pollen count info too
2 // Work with a health professional on a treatment plan
If you can’t stay indoors on a high-pollen day, chat to your pharmacist about over the counter therapies.
- Antihistamine tablets, syrups, nasal sprays and eye drops are good for people with mild or occasional hay fever. Be aware that there are some antihistamine tablets that can cause drowsiness, which is great if your symptoms are irritating you at night and interrupting your sleep, but not so helpful if you have things to do! Chat with your pharmacist to select one that will be best for you.
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays are an effective treatment for those of us with persistent to moderate hay fever. They work best if used daily throughout the allergy season.
- Saline solutions are great for clearing nasal congestion and washing away dust and pollen which will help reduce hay fever symptoms.
- Decongestant nasal sprays and tablets can be used to unblock the nose but shouldn’t be used as a long-term treatment due to unwanted side effects.
3 // Know your triggers
Does your hay fever flare up when you’re exercising in the park or you’re outside gardening? Can you exercise indoors in a gym or pool instead? Can you concrete your front yard so there is no grass or flowers (kidding!). You know, there are actually some plants that are allergy friendly – yep! Hydrangeas, flowering crab-apples and magnolias are all good choices to plant for a low-allergy garden (and they love the Highlands climate – winning!).
4 // Keep your immune system strong
A robust immune system will always help with combatting any sort of ailment – it’s all about putting your best healthy step forward, right? So, fill up on your leafy greens and veggies, and foods containing Vitamin D and garlic. There are certain herbs that have a natural antihistamine effect so instead of reaching for a morning coffee, make a green tea, chamomile, elderflower, ginger or peppermint tea instead.
5 // Protect the eyes
Probs best to ditch the contact lenses during hay fever season. They’re not the best to have in when the eyes are inflamed and itchy. Wearing your regular prescription glasses can help prevent pollen from getting in your eyes. Or if you don’t wear prescription glasses, pop on a pair of sunnies (preferably wraparound) when you’re outside.
Oh, and what about COVID-19?
“Unfortunately, some of the hay fever symptoms are similar to that pesky coronavirus we’re all trying to keep a lid on at the moment,” says Catherine.
“Medical advice for hay fever sufferers is to get tested if you are displaying COVID-19 symptoms.”
The line of thought is it’s best to rule yourself out with a negative result – better to be safe than sorry, right?
Capital Chemist Bowral is dedicated to improving each person’s health and wellbeing by providing quality pharmaceutical and health services to the Southern Highlands community. Open 7 days a week. Find out more here, or pop in to say hello to the friendly team on Bong Bong Street.
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