Around 15 percent of children and over a quarter of UK adults suffer from hay fever

Natural hay fever remedies

The constant tickle at the back of your palate. The sore, streaming eyes. The obsessive checking of the pollen forecast. If you’re a hay fever sufferer, the start of warm summer days can fill you with dread instead of joy.

Around 15 percent of children and over a quarter of UK adults suffer from hay fever, a figure that’s trebled in the last 30 years, according to statistics from Allergy UK. Symptoms are at their worst in the UK grass pollen season that runs between April and August, depending on the year’s weather patterns.

But while allergies to pollen can interfere with sleep and make it hard to concentrate at work, for some the symptoms can be downright debilitating. Not only is hay fever known to be a trigger in the development of asthma, studies show that it can worsen the condition. When there are higher concentrations of grass pollen in the air, more adults are admitted to hospital because of their asthma.

But is there anything you can do to help yourself that doesn’t involve popping another antihistamine and not leaving the house until Autumn? Luckily, there is. Cast your poor itchy eyes over our list of natural hay fever remedies. Most of them won’t cost you a penny so you’ve got nothing to lose except that stuffy nose.

Don’t drown your sorrows

Thought it was the freshly-mown lawn in the beer garden making you sneeze? Sadly, no. Alcohol makes all allergy symptoms worse and can trigger your hay fever before it’s even started. Thanks to the fermentation process, beer, wine and spirits all contain histamines. Yes, histamines. The same chemicals produced by your body that you’re taking all those tablets to counteract. Avoiding alcohol completely can cut both your symptoms and your risk of developing hay fever in the first place. Really can’t bear the thought of a grape-free summer? Choosing white wine will help as red wine has 20–200% more histamine.

Have a cuppa instead

Well-known for its soothing properties, chamomile has been used for centuries to fight inflammation and heal wounds. Modern scientific research has found this amazing yellow plant contains a wide variety of bioactive components, including 36 flavonoids with natural antihistamine and antiseptic properties. And drinking a steaming brew is just one way to use this natural hay fever cure. Gargling chamomile tea or inhaling its vapours in a steam bath is good for soothing inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat. If you have itchy eyes, you can use the cooled tea bags as a soothing mask. And if all else fails, it’ll help you sleep. Chamomile has sedative effects, thought to be due to the flavonoid apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain.

The fridge is your medicine cabinet

Watching what you eat is a simple way to boost the effectiveness of your antihistamines. Follow these simple hay fever diet rules for a natural way to reduce some of your symptoms.

Always reaching for the nasal spray? Cutting down on mucus-producing foods such as dairy, sugar and starch can reduce the amount of catarrh you produce.

Using drops for inflamed eyes? Choosing foods known to have anti-inflammatory properties can soothe the itch from within. 

Taking so many antihistamines you’re starting to rattle? Try eating large amounts of what nutritionist Patrick Holford calls the ‘most important anti-allergy vitamin’. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and vegetables like broccoli, is a natural antihistamine that immediately soothes allergic reactions. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes a strong immune system.

Over-using your asthma pump? Adding foods rich in quercetin could help clear your airway inflammation naturally. This yellow wonder pigment is found in plants like kale and broccoli and appears to reduce the release of histamine from cells, stabilising cell membranes so they are less reactive to allergens such as pollen.

H20 is your ally around the home...

While pollen is virtually indestructible, our summer nemesis has one weakness - water. Washing it away is the only way to keep your home a sneeze-free sanctuary. Showering and putting your clothes straight in the washing machine when you get home can stop pollen getting in. Washing your pillow cases regularly and rinsing your hair before you go to bed can stop the night-time sniffles. And don’t forget your four-legged friends, either. Those thick fur coats can be a real pollen trap, so Allergy UK suggests giving both cats and dogs a good wipe down with a damp microfiber cloth when they’ve come in from outside.

...and water can help soothe your face, too

It’s not just your home that can benefit from the pollen-banishing powers of water. According to Dr Stephen Tilles, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, rinsing your nostrils with a saline-water solution and using saline drops for your eyes is a safe, natural way to flush out the tiny particles that trigger allergies. He also told Time magazine that his own preferred natural hay fever cure is simply a cold, wet flannel applied to the face and eyes. “Not only is the cool temperature soothing to inflamed, puffy eyes and sinuses, but wiping the face may also help remove traces of pollen and other allergens.”

Go for a treatment

Needle-phobics look away now! Acupuncture is an effective natural treatment for hay fever and it has a World Health Organisation (WHO) report to prove it! WHO says that the treatment, in which fine needles are inserted underneath the skin, has been proven in controlled trials to be “more effective than antihistamine drugs”.

Daniel Maxwell, acupuncturist and member of the British Acupuncture Councils explains: "Acupuncture is great for allergic conditions due to the significant effect it has on modulating the immune system. In the case of hay fever, it is often aggravated by a pathogen (referred to as 'Wind' in Chinese Medicine) which causes problems in the respiratory system and acupuncture uses needles to restore the normal functioning of this system.”

Batten down the hatches

Finally, when it comes to natural hay fever methods, prevention is always better than cure. There are several ways you can reduce the amount of pollen your poor respiratory system comes into contact with.

1. Keeping windows and doors closed will keep pollen away from your home.

2. Wearing wraparound sunglasses will minimise pollen exposure to the eyes.

3. Vaseline, coconut oil or a specific nasal allergen barrier balm can trap pollen before it gets up your nose. Apply it around the nostrils, not inside.

4. Drying clothes indoors in the tumble dryer will stop pollen following you around all day.

5. Breathing through your nose rather than mouth will help you use your nostrils own anti-allergy features - the tiny nostril hairs can trap allergens before they enter your airways.