“The number of hay fever sufferers is expected to reach 20 million this summer – up five million from last year. And by 2030, that figure is predicted to reach 31.8 million”, reported the Daily Telegraph only last week alongside commenting that the pollen count is – surprise, surprise – currently soaring.
It is not uncommon to read stories of this nature on a regular basis during this time of year. In the UK, you could say the presence of hay fever sufferers is a more reliable sign of summer than the weather itself!
It’s the same old story on an annual basis; a bout of summer misery. For many, hay fever starts at the onset of spring, for others it arrives slightly later, just as summer is around the corner and the pollen count soars.
You may suffer from hay fever without fail every year and know exactly how to deal with it. It is, however, important to understand that you can become sensitive and react to pollen at any age throughout your life. Just because you haven’t suffered before, that does not make you immune. If you suddenly pick up the ‘sniffles’ in the summer, it is essential to determine whether or not you are suffering from hay fever as soon as possible in order to efficiently reduce the symptoms.
In this week’s article we will look at the symptomatic similarities between hay fever and the common cold, and the importance of determining the correct diagnosis. We will then give a pertinent and timely reminder of some of the natural nutrients that can help to reduce the symptoms of hay fever during the period of suffering.
Hay fever is a condition that affects around 1 in 5 people in the UK, the medical term is ‘Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis’. When pollen comes into contact with the cells that line your mouth, nose, eyes and throat, it triggers an alert to the immune system which responds to protect the body from a perceived viral or bacterial attack by the release of IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies.
Antibodies bind to various cells such as basophils and mast cells resulting in the release of histamine and subsequent inflammation with the resulting typical symptoms of itchy and watering eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion. This explains why the most common type of medical treatment normally comes in the form of an antihistamine.
The common cold is a virus which becomes airborne when a sufferer coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be passed on through contact with an object that has been contaminated by the virus (telephones and pens are a common source), or just general contact with an individual who has the virus.
The common cold can be caused by a large number of different viruses, the winter months are prime time for colds although summer colds are also common and symptoms can often seem similar to hay fever. This is where it is important to gain the correct diagnosis on your condition.
The standard recovery from a cold is usually quick, however if symptoms are still present after a week or two, medical guidance is recommended.
The difference between Hay Fever and the Summer Cold
If you are an annual victim of hay fever then the chances are you can quite easily distinguish between the two conditions as you will recognise the symptoms. But for those who haven’t suffered from hay fever before, knowing what to expect and differentiating the symptoms from a summer cold can initially be quite difficult.
Hay fever has similarities to the summer cold as both nasal disorders are associated with a blocked and runny nose. It can be difficult to ascertain the key differences (particularly in the first few days) between hay fever and a summer cold. If you believe you ‘tick the boxes’ for hay fever from the following bullet points, it is important to seek the correct form of treatment.
- Itching – This is not a characteristic of the common cold but it is of hay fever. If your general facial area is itchy or, more specifically, your nose and eyes, then the likelihood is that you are suffering from hay fever.
- Duration – A common cold should not last much longer than a week, whereas a hay fever sufferer may experience consistent symptoms over a period of several months without the condition improving. In many cases it gradually gets worse over time.
- Nasal discharge – Both a cold and hay fever leave you with nasal irritation – sneezing, runny nose and sore/tender nose. However the discharge can be very different in appearance. If you have hay fever, the nasal discharge may be watery and clear unless this becomes infected. With a virus, the mucus is much thicker and darker in colour.
- Sore throat – A frequent precursor to the common cold is a sore throat, however this is not associated with hay fever. If you do have a sore throat then there is a chance that it may just be a virus. If the symptoms persist beyond a fortnight then it is important to still go and see a doctor.
Like many of us, you would probably not consider a common cold as something that warrants a visit to the doctors. However, if you self diagnose yourself with a summer cold when you may in fact have hay fever then you are simply making your situation worse.
It is important to deal with hay fever from the outset because although you may recover from a summer cold quickly – the symptoms of hay fever will persist. The bullet points above clearly don’t go into extensive detail, but if you know what symptoms to look out for then you can usually tell if you are suffering from a cold or hay fever.
Once you have an understanding of the correct diagnosis it is important to follow the correct form of treatment, especially in the case of hay fever. An over the counter form of treatment would normally be an antihistamine, however these can often cause drowsiness, and nasal sprays which are also common can cause nasal congestion to return.
There are always natural forms of treatment for allergies such as hay fever and we have previously written a blog on certain natural nutrients that are known to be of support to this common seasonal allergy (a link is provided below). Here is a pertinent and timely reminder of some of the nutrients that can seriously reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Natural Nutrient Support
Propolis is a sticky resin gathered by honey bees from leaf buds, the bark of trees and other botanical sources. Bees metabolise the Propolis and use it to seal, disinfect and protect their hives. Propolis is used by the bees for a range of protective purposes within the hive due to its natural antibiotic, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.
Propolis is a complex food, and over 180 natural compounds have been identified including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. Propolis is one of nature’s richest sources of bioflavonoids and this is one of the reasons that it is considered to be an excellent natural antioxidant.
Beta Glucan 1 3, 1 6
Beta 1 3, 1 6 Glucan is best known for its immune support properties with extensive research indicating it may boost the immune system and as such help to support against colds and flu. Put simply Beta 1 3, 1 6 Glucan ‘primes’ the immune system alerting the body to help defend itself against viral and bacterial invaders.
In terms of fighting hay fever Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucan is capable of binding to receptors on the surface of innate immune cells and this action is suggested as playing a role in reducing the symptoms caused by IgE production, especially the histamine release; and less histamine means less inflammation.
It is reported that Vitamin C has natural antihistamine properties by breaking down the molecular structure of histamine, therefore decreasing its volume in the blood. t is also proven to have antioxidant properties and contributes to the normal function of the immune system.
Unfortunately, Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin and quickly used up in the body, especially by smoking and alcohol, stress and exercise and the use of certain medications such as aspirin. Many people simply do not get enough vitamin C from their diets due to a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables – or a loss of the nutrient through overcooking and processing Vitamin C rich foods.
Bioflavonoids, Flavonoids and Carotenoids
Bioflavonoids and flavonoids are sometimes known as Vitamin P and are natural compounds giving colour to fruits and plants. Vitamin C is best absorbed in the presence of bioflavonoids meaning it’s action will be much greater and far more efficient.
Found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, quercetin is probably the most talked about Bioflavonoid in respect of hayfever. Quercitin has membrane stabilising properties on the cells that release histamine producing an anti-inflammatory effect.
Flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables and other foods and drinks such as chocolate, tea and red wine. Best sources of quercitin are found in onions, apples, cranberries, blackcurrants, capers, buckwheat although also found in many other food sources including citrus fruits, parsley and sage.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research has suggested that a high consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids may help with the symptoms of hay fever, mainly due to its anti-inflammatory properties. By increasing your dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids you can help to reduce the production of inflammatory prostaglandins and inflammatory cytokines. If our cell membranes are made up of Omega 3 fatty acids and phospholipids, as opposed to omega 6, they are more stable and less prone to inflammation.
It may not be a matter of life and death, but it is important for the enjoyment of your summer and your own comfort to correctly determine whether you do have hay fever or not. Although they may have some similar symptoms, their form of treatment is very different as hay fever is an allergy and a common cold is a virus.
If you suffer from hay fever annually then you know what to expect, so when the symptoms occur you know to seek the correct form of treatment. As mentioned previously in the article, if you have not suffered from hay fever before this does not mean you can rule it out. Through slight lifestyle changes, monitoring your diet and upping your intake of the above nutrients, you can have a positive effect on your hay fever symptoms, but you have to know whether you have it first!
If you have any questions regarding the health topics raised in this article, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via phone or e-mail.
Honey Bee Propolis – Propolis is a complex food, and over 180 natural compounds have been identified including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids. Propolis is one of nature”s richest sources of bioflavonoids and this is one of the reasons that it is considered to be an excellent and natural antioxidant.
Immunovite: Beta 1-3, 1-6 Glucan – each capsule containing 250mg of Beta 1-3 1-6 Glucan, a powerful immune-priming nutritional supplement. Immunovite also comprises suitable levels of Vitamin C, Selenium and Zinc which each respectively contribute to the normal function of the immune system.
Phytoshield – Phytoshield is a very potent and powerful phyto-antioxidant nutrient formula containing high levels of flavonoids and carotenoids. Each gluten-free capsule supplies 650mg of mixed flavonoids and 15mg of mixed carotenoids.
Krill Oil – Krill are the most bioeffective natural sources of beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids EPA/ DHA; Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant and Choline, an essential neurotransmitter. Krill Oil nutrients can help manage cholesterol and provide powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Research and studies support Krill Oil as having recognised physiological action.
Omega 3 Vegan – Vegan Omega 3 from Marine Algae – An ideal vegan source of the important Omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. Two gluten-free capsules will provide 334.0mg DHA and 166mg EPA (on average). This supplement will therefore provide excellent daily levels of Omega 3 for a minimum of 30 days.
Fish Oil – Cytoplan high potency fish oil capsules give you 550mg of the essential fatty acids EPA/DHA per 1000mg capsule. Our Fish Oils are guaranteed to be clean, stable & free from pollutants. Fatty acids are recognised in having an essential role in normal brain function.
Vitamin C Supplements (Please follow this link to see our range of Vitamin C Supplements)