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Debunking allergy myths

After a long, cold winter everyone looks forward to the spring, right? Wrong! If you’re a sufferer of allergic rhinitis aka hay fever, the spring and summer is a time of abject misery – sniffling through a runny nose, rubbing painfully red eyes and trying to stay indoors every time the pollen count tips over “moderate”. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, but we’re going to debunk some hay fever myths.

 “Wait till you start showing symptoms before taking medication”

By the time you’ve started sneezing or have an itchy throat, it’s too late to take medicine. If you start anti-histamines before the allergy season kicks in they are much more effective as they can work on blocking the histamines (the allergens that upset your system) straight away. This relies on you knowing what your triggers are and when they might occur – for example, if you’re allergic to weed pollen, then you want to be dosing yourself up around late summer and early fall.

 “You only need an allergy shot if you have a serious problem”

Allergy shots can help 80% of all hay fever sufferers and can help prevent complications like asthma from developing. In order to be effective, you need a shot a week for 6 months, then monthly for 3 years. That’s a lot of doctor’s appointments. The amounts of allergen injected start off small and are gradually increased until the “maintenance dose” is reached. So, shots can be very effective, but require a lot of dedication.

 “Just keep irrigating your sinuses as much as possible! Irrigate, irrigate, irrigate!”

Keeping your sinuses moist can be helpful, but don’t overdo it. The problem is that irrigation removes the mucus that bothers you, but mucus is a helpful barrier against bacteria. Once or twice a week is fine. Just make sure you’re using clean water, two people died in Louisiana in 2011 after unwittingly flushing Naegleria fowleri into their brains via sinus irrigation. Trust me, you don’t want the gory details…just use clean water!

“As long as you stay indoors on high pollen days, you’ll be fine”

Even if you stayed inside on every high pollen day, there’s still a chance that you’d react to allergens within your home. To minimize the chances of pollen getting in your home, keep the windows shut, vacuum regularly and change the filters on your air purifier as often as you need to. Travelling before 10am also helps, as the count is lower in the morning but remember that if it’s pollen season, the count is never zero.

“You can’t develop hay fever as an adult”

You can! Beverly Adams Groom, chief palynologist at the National Pollen and Aerobiology Unit at the University of Worcester, has said that she sees people in their 70s who have just been diagnosed with hay fever for the first time. It is true that you are genetically predisposed towards allergies, but there’s no predicting when it’ll manifest itself. So if you’re getting red, itchy eyes for the first time and your friends say it can’t be allergies…they’re wrong!

 “It’s only allergies – it’s not that serious”

Try telling that to all the people who spend the spring and summer months feeling miserable thanks to hay fever. There are 4 degrees of hay fever, from Mild-Intermittent to Moderate-Severe Persistent, so one person’s mild sniffle may be someone else’s Healthy Living hell. If it’s interrupting your normal life, then it’s serious. Don’t be afraid to go to your doctor and get help.


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!



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