I used to suffer badly with hay fever. For 3 decades it stalked me; sneezing, running nose, itchy eyes I got it all. At school I struggled to concentrate and was in a minority of one who always had a handkerchief in his pocket – much to the amusement of my friends. I went under the surgeon’s knife twice in an effort to find the cause before being told aged 8 I had hay fever. The sneezing and runny nose aren’t fun but by far the biggest annoyance for me (and my family!) was the irritability.
Histamine is the hormone responsible for mounting attacks on normally inert substances such as pollen that enter the body. In a normal person pollen in-vokes little or no reaction from the immune system. In a hay fever sufferer an over-production of histamine means that normal reactions don’t occur. The body mounts a full scale attack on the pollen. The sneezing, runny nose and eyes are your body’s attempt to flush out the perceived invader.
The most interesting aspect of histamine from my view is its impact on emotions. Hormones can have emotional impacts. Seratonin makes you feel good. Oxytocin creates connections and feelings of love. Adrenaline makes you feel alert and excited.
Histamine unfortunately isn’t such a fun hormone. It makes you feel irritated. Anyone who’s suffered from hay fever can probably attest to this. In fact any women out there who have suffered PMS can probably vouch for this as well. PMS is linked to high histamine levels in the womb.
Is there anything you can do to reduce your symptoms?
Try the following:
1. Probiotics. These beneficial bacteria are thought to be able to interact with the immune system and modify the response to inert substances. Information on this study can be found here: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3784923/.
2. Neti Pot/Salt Water Sprays. These can be great for some patients. The mild salt water soothes inflamed mucus linings and can clear out the irritants and excess mucus. Don’t go crazy though. Continual irrigation of the nasal passage can remove mucus membrane designed to protect the nose.
3. Anti-histamines. If you are taking these regularly please take a moment to reflect on a recent US study suggesting chronic use of anti-histamines may increase risk of alzheimers. In particular those people taking daily dose of 1st generation anti-histamines such as chlorpheniramine and diphenhydramine are at highest risk and may want to consider switching to an alternative or looking for another option.
4. Diet. Try moving towards a diet high in fruit and vegetables and eliminate processed and junk food, including dairy, starch and sugars.
5. Head for the sea. We are fortunate living so close to the sea. If the winds are blowing on-shore, head to the beach to get some relief. If you can’t make it to the beach you may have to stay holed-up in your house or sealed in a car with a pollen filter – both not such fun options on a hot summer’s day.
6. Nasal Sprays. Steroid nasal sprays work by reducing inflammation and swelling. They also suppress the immune system so should be used with care. Chronic use can lead to side effects including anxiety, hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating), depression and can even affect growth and development in children.(see https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/beclometasone-dipropionate.html#sideEffects for a full list of side effects).
7. Acupuncture. Trials of acupuncture for hay fever have been generally positive. Acupuncture may work by stimulating the nervous system and deactivating those areas of the brain involved in processing pain and discomfort. Needling around the sinuses can increase local blood circulation and reduce inflammation.
Thanks to acupuncture, diet and lifestyle changes my symptoms are now much reduced. I’ve also treated numerous patients for hay fever and have seen some great results.
Gower Acupuncture, 07764 254881