Sunny skies and hot weather are warmly welcomed as we remain in lockdown, and as the Easter weekend looks set for more sunshine, so does an increased pollen count that’ll affect hay fever and allergy sufferers.
As temperatures are set to rise to 24C, the Met Office stated that the tree pollen count will climb into the moderate to high category across England and Wales.
Hay fever isn't enjoyable for anyone, and having a runny nose, itchy throat and headache can easily spoil a pleasant few days planned self-isolating in the garden.
Here are some top tips on how to get ahead of it, according to Dr Beverley Adams-Groom, chief pollen forecaster at the University of Worcester.
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Be prepared ahead of time
“We strongly advise people to take medication a week or two in advance of the start of the season.
If sufferers can avoid the first really bad hay fever attack, they will have a much better season overall,” says Dr Adams-Groom, who recommends checking pollen calendars to help identify your symptoms.
Aside from tablets, sufferers can use barrier products. These can be balms which you put underneath your nostrils.
On your next trip outside, she suggests visiting your local pharmacist who can help you find the best medication and barrier products for you.
“Often you need a combination of products, eg, antihistamines with a barrier product or a nasal spray. People sometimes have to experiment to get the best medication for them as individuals.”
Antihistamines are often the most effective medication at preventing your symptoms. Dr Adams-Groom explains they work by suppressing the histamine that is produced in the mast cells inside your nose when pollen hits them.
"However, with all products, you can get breakthrough symptoms when the pollen gets very high, in which case it is helpful to use another product as well and do your best to stay indoors," she says.
How can you minimise discomfort?
Dr Adams-Groom told The Independent that being inside with the doors and windows shut is actually beneficial to hay fever sufferers as it will prevent pollen entering.
She recommends changing clothes if you’re coming from the garden indoors and wiping pet fur down with a damp cloth to catch the pollen.
“If you have to go out, wear a mask to prevent the pollen entering your nose and wear sunglasses to keep the pollen out of your eyes and ensure windows are closed and air-con is on when travelling in a car,” she says.
Is there anything you should avoid?
If you suffer from tree pollen, then some foods are worth avoiding to prevent cross-reactivity, also known as oral allergy syndrome.
According to Dr Adams-Groom, you should steer clear of almonds, apples, apricots, carrots, celery, cherries, hazelnuts, kiwis, parsley, peached, peanuts, pears, plums and soya bean, particularly if you have birch tree allergy.
Are there any products that can help?
There’s a range of products that have the seal of approval from Allergy UK, a charity and resource for allergy sufferers, that will help ease your discomfort should you struggle with hay fever and allergies.
The Stérimar stop & protect allergy response, £8.55 is a nasal spray that will alleviate a nasty reaction, and provide relief from allergic rhinitis symptoms such as a runny, blocked or itchy nose and watery eyes.
The Woolroom deluxe washable wool pillow, £45.49, topped our IndyBest review of hypoallergenic pillows. Clusters of wool balls are housed inside a 200-thread count organic cotton outer layer. It's also resistant to mould, mildew and mites that can exacerbate allergies, and you can unzip it to rearrange or remove handfuls of wool until you get the right amount to help you sleep comfortably.
For your home, this HoMedics totalclean air purifier AP15, £99.99, helps reduce pollen, dust mites and airborne allergens that may already be in your house or being brought in by your pets. There are three speeds, low, medium and high, it comes with a three-year guarantee and the filter will only need replacing every 18 months.
Read our IndyBest best buy reviews on products that can help:
Blueair Blue Pure 411 Air Purifier: £129, John Lewis & Partners – Buy now
Founded in Sweden, Blueair has a whole range of innovative air purifiers. This product is small but powerful, designed for smaller rooms up to 15m2. We really liked its simple set-up with one button control – you just need to plug it in and turn it on. With three speed settings, this is a no-fuss purifier which completely filters room air every 12 minutes. We really felt the air was fresher to breathe, and in particular, it removed cooking smells when placed in the kitchen.
Noise was an important consideration while testing, and we found the lowest setting on this product was quiet enough to have on while sleeping, so you can wake up feeling dust and allergen free. This air purifier was also one of the most attractive products we tried out, and if you’re not a fan of the blue coloured pre-filter, there are a range of other colours to choose from, so you won’t have to hide it in the corner of the room. Its compact and lightweight design means it’s easy to move around the house, or even travel with.
Compared to other purifiers we tested, this was easy to maintain, with an indicator light that turns red to let you know when you need to change the filter (normally after six months of use). The pre-filter was really simple to clean, you can actually gently vacuum clean it or, as we did, wash it in the washing machine. Finally, we were impressed that it uses just 1.5 watts of power, making it very energy efficient if you’re going to have it on for long periods of time.
Woolroom deluxe washable wool pillow: £47.99, Woolroom – Buy now
Wool-filled pillows are an increasingly popular choice, with fans of this natural fabric declaring that once you “go wool” you won’t go back to the synthetic variety. It’s a material that boasts moisture-wicking and temperature-regulating properties so will keep your head cool in summer and cosy in winter, as well as being naturally hypoallergenic.
Woolroom’s deluxe pillow has clusters of wool balls sourced from British down breeds of sheep, stuffed inside a 200-thread count organic cotton outer. The pillow has the all-important approval from Allergy UK as it’s naturally resistant to mould, mildew and the mites that can cause allergies. You can also bung it in the washing machine.
Our pillow arrived looking plump and was ultra-supportive, yet comfy when we bedded down. Wool fillings do result in a firmer feel, but if you take the Goldilocks approach to your pillows, “too firm”, “too flat”, or “too soft” can be easily remedied. We loved being able to unzip the pillow and whip out handfuls of wool and disperse the clumps until we hit our comfort sweet spot (store the surplus wool in the natural calico bag that the pillow is delivered in). If you prefer your pillow with even more firmness or loft, there’s a bag of extra wool to buy so you can stuff and adjust until it feels “just right”.
Read our full roundup of the best hypo-allergenic pillows