The mornings are darker, our days are suddenly shorter and we find ourselves leaving the house with a coat…. And a handful of tissues! Welcome to the change of yet another season, which brings along with it, hay fever.
According to the South African Allergy Society, as many as 20–30% of South Africans suffer from hay fever.
What exactly is seasonal hay fever? “Allergies result when the immune system identifies a foreign substance, such as dust or pollen, incorrectly, then classifies it as harmful and treats it as such.” explains Allison Veinings, Executive Director of the Self-Medication Manufacturers Association of South Africa (SMASA).
One can expect similar symptoms to that you would experience in summer. These include your everyday itchy nose and eyes, sneezing and watery eyes. It is common for people to confuse hay fever with a cold. What is the golden age rule when it comes to diagnosing these different conditions? A cold will only linger for 10 days, whereas allergies will linger for weeks and even months.
What is the culprit of these symptoms? Pollen, trees, grass and weeds, and in the winter to come, hay fever is also increased by the use of heaters and fireplaces. Mould and insect parts trapped in these objects are released into the air and inhaled leading to a reaction. Animals and dust mites can also be a trigger.
Here are some tips to help control seasonal allergy symptoms:
- Attack of the mould and dust mites: There are many ways to limit allergens inside the house. Throw out old shower curtains, wallpaper, or carpeting that may contain mould. Scrub showers and sinks with a solution containing bleach and detergent. Remove some or all carpets and unnecessary furnishings like throw pillows. Keep windows closed when pollen/mould counts are high.
- Squeaky clean bedding: Wash bedding in hot water each week. Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows, and comforters.
- Hello artificial plants: Live trees can be a safe haven for chemicals and mould which can trigger hay fever. Consider investing in some fake plants to spice up your home rather than the real deal.
- Be aware of the outdoors: If you have hay fever triggered by outdoor allergens, it’s important to shower and wash your hair, especially before going to bed. Showering helps remove pollen from your skin and hair and can help prevent a night-time allergy attack.
- Where there is smoke there is fire: Smoking, second hand smoke and smoky environments can worsen symptoms of hay fever for many people. If you have allergies, it may be helpful to avoid exposure to any smoky environments, including your warm heaters and fireplaces.
- Check your car heater: Your warm heated car can expose you to airborne spores that can trigger allergy symptoms. To minimize this problem, bare the cold and open the windows for 10 minutes after turning on your heater and avoid directing the vents toward your face.