Hay fever sufferers – make yourself pollen 'bomb proof' this Bank Holiday

We are set for a balmy Easter Bank Holiday weekend, but the downside is the ‘pollen bomb’ that will hit the air as a result.

While the rest of the country basks in the sunshine, the hot weather will spell misery for the UK’s 13 million hay fever sufferers, along with three million people with asthma who are affected by pollen.

When the temperature soars, common trees like birch, ash and willow release extra-large clouds of irritant pollen into the atmosphere.

To make matters worse, the pollen bomb will mingle with a cloud of traffic, smog and factory fumes that has just blown in from the Continent.

Not only do these toxins trap pollen in the air for longer, but recent research shows that pollen and air pollution molecules combine to form super-pollen that is even more irritating to the eyes and nose, triggering super-allergy symptoms.

Recent research shows that pollen and air pollution molecules combine to form super-pollen that is even more irritating


Along with antihistamines, there are lots of new drug-free gadgets available to ease symptoms – here, we look at which ones really work.

Pill-free options:

Red (light) nose therapy

These small, portable gadgets use two nasal probes to deliver red light phototherapy directly into the nasal passages. Some studies show this can act on the lining of the nose to prevent it releasing histamine – the chemical produced in an allergic reaction – and reduce nasal inflammation.

These can work well for people who can’t take antihistamine for any reason.

Try: Lloyds Pharmacy Allergy Reliever, £19.99.

Score: 7/10

Local honey

It’s long been suggested that eating a teaspoon of local honey a day in summer can help ease hay fever symptoms by desensitising you to pollen.

However, research shows that hay fever sufferers are allergic to pollen from grass and trees, which bees don’t visit as they prefer garden or wild flowers.

The honey theory is interesting but researchers don’t rate it

This means that the type of pollen found naturally in honey is the wrong sort to develop any immunity to.

Score: 0/10

Pollen barriers

Applying Vaseline or a dedicated barrier balm such as HayMax (£6.99 in Boots) around the edge of each nostril to trap pollen before it enters your nasal passages can help reduce symptoms.

As most of the worst hay fever symptoms are caused by pollen entering the nose (as opposed to the eyes and throat), this is another good drug-free method to try.

Score: 8/10

Salt water rinses

There is good evidence that using a salt water solution to clear out your nostrils can help hay fever by flushing pollen out of the nasal passages and soothing the nasal lining. You simply squirt the solution into your nose, leave it for a minute and then blow your nose.

Try: Sterimar Isotonic Nasal Hygiene Spray, £7.99, from pharmacies.

Score: 8/10

Air filters/allergy hoovers

There are a now a vast array of expensive vacuum cleaners and air filter systems that promise to suck up and clear allergens such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites from inside homes.

However, indoor air quality doesn’t tend to be the big issue with hay fever – it’s typically the outdoor airborne pollen grains that trigger allergic reactions. So this could be a big spend for minimal benefit.

Keeping windows closed in mid-morning and early evening, when pollen levels peak, should be enough to keep excess pollen out of the household air.

Sunglasses which wrap-around can help stop pollen entering your eyes


Showering and changing your clothes when you come inside from outdoors will also keep indoor pollen to a minimum.

The drugs do work

When push comes to shove, experts say antihistamines are still the best and most effective way to tackle the worst of your hay fever symptoms.

But the reason many people don’t have much luck with antihistamines is because they take the wrong ones or don’t use them properly, claims consultant allergist Dr Adrian Morris, founder of the Surrey Allergy Clinic in Guildford.

Dr Morris says cetirizine is the tried and tested antihistamine of choice, having been extensively trialled and found to be safe for both adults and children to use over long periods.

He says: “It works by stopping the production of histamine, which is released when the body detects something harmful — in this case, pollen. “It’s this release of histamine which causes hay fever symptoms.

“Cetirizine works for up to 24 hours and is much less sedating than older antihistamines – such as chlorphenamine (found in Piriton) – so won’t make you drowsy, which is one of people’s biggest bugbears when it comes to anti-hay fever medication.”

(Try: Boots Pharmaceuticals Hay fever & Allergy Relief 10mg, £3.99.)

Dr Morris warns patients with hay fever to take their antihistamines every day during hay fever season, not only when they experience symptoms, which many sufferers do.

This common mistake means they end up getting caught out with sudden, breakthrough symptoms and wrongly conclude that the drugs are not working.

“By taking antihistamines daily, you build up an ongoing tolerance throughout the season,” Dr Morris explains.

“Plus, it’s also a good idea to start taking them a few weeks before the main hay fever season actually starts – in other words, now,” he adds.

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